Rozelle’s popular love.fish is where traditional meals, ethical protocols and lively imagination meet. Photo: Fiona Morris WHO
Lisa Messenger, author, editor, entrepreneur from Birchgrove
love.fish in Rozelle
“It’s a really easy, casual place that’s really local to where I am. I love their whole philosophy around sustainable seafood and eco-friendly fish. They even have biodegradable take-away containers. It’s not too over the top. It’s friendly and happy and pretty casual, which I like.”
“I’m a sucker for salt and pepper squid anywhere I go and they do a really good one. They do a really good John Dory and a really good quinoa salad – that sounds so cliched, it’s so of the moment, but I love it. When I’m feeling really naughty, I have the twice-cooked, hand-cut chips. I always think if you have the grilled fish and quinoa salad, you can have the chips: the 70/30 rule! Seventy per cent good, 10 per cent indulgent. If I’m 50 per cent bad, I might throw in a bit of banoffee pie; you can’t go past that.”
“I’m at a lot of events with my job, and I eat out two or three times a week. I like lots of different places, but these days I try to be more healthy, which is a bit boring because traditionally I like tapas. I eat a lot of fish and salads at the moment, but I err on the side of the 70/30 rule – it’s good to have a bit of naughtiness. My partner makes me terrible – well, good, but bad for me – desserts, which I’m trying to say no to.
“I’ve just launched my latest book, Daring and Disruptive, which is really exciting. My philosophy is on business and living your best life and finding your purpose and how to do things differently. It’s for anyone with energy and creative flair. I’m the CEO of Messenger Group and editor-in-chief of The Collective magazine, for people wanting to make a difference in the world. It showcases people from all walks of life and all industries and shows that anything is attainable, just get out there and give it a go. And I travel a lot …I pinch myself, it’s a pretty fantastic life.”
LOVE.FISH 580 Darling Street, Rozelle, 9818 7777, lovefish杭州龙凤论坛m.auEntrees, $3-$19; mains, $17-$30; desserts, $14. $80 for two, plus drinks
3.5 out of five stars
4 King fish
3 Big cahoona
2 Small fry
1 Fish out of water
Fish and chips. Chish and fips. Is there any more hard-to-improve-upon culinary pleasure? Hot batter, steaming flesh and big, fatty, salty chips. Not your everyday meal, granted, but a union that has stood the test of time, the whims of fashion, the assault of the health lobby and the flippancies of some non-omnivores. Give or take the odd cultural nod – a grilled fillet there, a sweet-potato chip here – there’s little that has changed in the 150-odd years since its big reveal.
So, love.fish. Traditional fish and chips, check. Serious eco-credentials, check. Whole new ways of updating the classic, check. The Rozelle bolthole –one of a strip of buzzy places that gives Darling Street’s west end a lively energy of an evening – is a monument to what can be done with a traditional meal and ethical, internationally infused imagination.
On the night we visit, the unfussy eatery is chockablok with well-to-do Balmainians, many of whom are happy to sit on tables on the breezy, traffic-edged pavement under blankets if they don’t fit into the simple and tiny inside space. Its owner, the unfailingly upbeat Michelle, has spent years developing connections with Sydney’s most sustainable fish sellers, putting strong morals ahead of all else. Like her take on packaging, food waste, recycling and energy, the star of the show, the fish, is absolutely sustainable and thus not contributing to over-fishing or poor farming practices. (It’s a show of how far we have to go as a country that love.fish is so rare in this regard.) Her staff, like her, are a friendly and engaging lot.
To start, Huon salmon poori rolls are clever, clever, clever – sheep’s milk yoghurt and mango pickle, and a few judicious spheres of salmon roe add to crispily wrapped, gently spiced fish. It’s imaginative and delicious, though could do with a little more of the fresh pickle. House-cured trout is pretty and nimble, an edible dive into brightness and crunch.
If fish and chips are husband and wife, their necessary third wheel is surely lemon. (We’re less big on vinegar than in England, a very good thing that lets our top-quality fish have its fair say.) But there’s a whole army of concubines for the legion of fish choices on the market-dependent menu, too: alongside chips, a coeliac-friendly sides list is a romp across continents, through pastures and into spice souks. There are deep, inky purple carrots with blobs of smoky baba ghanoush, black tahini and olive salsa. There is Lisa Messenger’s quinoa in a sweet potato and pumpkin salad, polenta chips and greens in a selection of guises.
It’s probably not meant to be, but house rag pasta with Spencer Gulf prawns, Fraser Island spanner crab and truffled baby peas seems an homage to the mushy peas so traditionally paired with fish ‘n’ chips. The sweet peas are broken and full of seafoody juices, heady and richer than they look.
The double-cooked chips – fried in rice bran oil – are nigh-on perfect; a thing of true class. They’re made even better alongside the puffy goujons of beer-battered whiting. Double yes.
Biodynamic and organic wines are very reasonable, not inching above the $48 mark; our drop of Mudgee Riesling a nifty $37. BYO is $4.
I’m on a bit of an Spanish mackerel kick at the moment, so its rendition as a special – paired with grilled asparagus, golden beet salsa and pancetta crumb (and thus removing the pressure of settling on a side from the list of 11) – is a simple and wise choice. There are burgers for the turf lovers and housemade aioli, tartare, salsa and mayo. Oh, and ketchup incurs a fee of $1.
To reel it all in, banoffee pie and pear tatin wouldn’t go amiss on, as Lisa Messenger puts it, those 50 per cent bad days. They are, after all, offset by all the goodness put into such a thoughtfully minded dinner.