Jules Rydon starts receiving texts from his fishmonger at five in the morning. Daily market updates are vital for the chef, whose menu at Pearl changes regularly depending on what’s available – there may be nannygai one week, and leather jacket the next.
“Our focus here is to serve sustainably sourced seafood as much as we can, and do it as best we can,” says Rydon. “Most of the seafood we use here comes from the ocean out the front of the shop. We’re looking to utilise by-catch as much as possible and promote the underdog of seafood ... things people don’t usually go for.”
Rydon (ex-Porteno) and partner Bec Seidel opened the beachfront restaurant in late January, taking over the long-vacant Aldinga Beach kiosk site. “When we were younger … we would come down to the beach and look at all the old derelict kiosks,” says Rydon, who grew up in the area. “We’ve always had our eyes on this coast.”
At the time of opening, the pair had no website (there’s still no Instagram page) and shied away from media coverage, preferring to build their reputation among the locals first. Then Covid hit. After months of offering takeaway only, the restaurant reopened to diners in July with a casual menu of Mediterranean-influenced dishes.
Lunch might be a bowl of steaming Port Lincoln mussels wok-tossed with garlic, white wine, tomato and smoky chorizo, or crispy school prawns tossed in tapioca flour with house-made salt-bush and nori salt. There’s also fish and chips, and daily specials such as oysters, locally caught squid and stingray. Greek influences weave through the menu – in dishes such as the bougatsa (filo pastry with baked vanilla custard) and fakes (lentil) soup with winter greens.
Since reopening, the pair has also launched Friday Night Fish – a weekly dinner series with a focus on whole fish, share plates and great wine. With the help of friend, fellow chef and event-maestro Jordan Jeavons (ex-Roxie’s, Crown & Anchor), who's working the floor, Rydon and his team serves up a casual banquet with dishes such as whole line-caught nannygai, local calamari and barbequed cauliflower.
“It’s a whole night focused on fish and vegetables,” Rydon says. “It’s the way we used to host big parties – with lots of food and fun in the kitchen.”
With friends in all the right places, Rydon has enlisted school pal, winemaker and Oddio co-owner Steven Crawford to help curate the wine list. Naturally, there’s Crawford’s own Frederick Stevenson label on the menu, alongside local drops from Paralian, Koerner and Bondar.
“We’ve got a really harmonious approach to how we work out what we’ll serve – Steve will come down, I’ll go pick up some fish, Jordan will often join us and we’ll open bottles and eat and drink and see what works well,” says Rydon. “We’ve all known each other for many years and grown up in the region. For all of us, ‘down south’ is home, and we always make our way back here, working together.”
The team hopes Friday Night Fish will remain a regular occurrence, with plans (pandemic pending) to add music to the mix over summer.
Aldinga Beach Boat Ramp, Lower Esplanade, Aldinga Beach
Fri to Sun 9am–3pm (walk-ins only).
Friday Night Fish dinners are 7pm each week (doors open at 6.30pm for drinks and bookings are essential).