There’s a nostalgia in tearing open an oily butcher-paper parcel of battered fish, fat chips, crunchy potato cakes and a dimmy or two, then dousing the lot in salt. Two new seaside chipperies, one on each side of Port Phillip Bay, are nailing old-school flavour, and using locally caught, ethically sourced fish while they’re at it.
Fish by Moonlite
Just under two hours’ drive from Melbourne, Matt Germanchis and Gemma Gange have opened a takeaway offshoot of their casual Mediterranean diner Captain Moonlite.
Captain Moonlite is at the Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club, and the new fish’n’chip shop is just over the road, in a former gelateria in Anglesea village. It’s decked out in the same colour palette as the restaurant: white and bright. There’s a potted olive tree by the door, and a handwritten note taped to the window tells you the fish of the day.
“That was Gemma,” says Germanchis. “She said, ‘You’ve got good handwriting, just write it down.’”
Germanchis’s goal is to recreate the fish’n’chips shops he grew up with, where the person behind the counter fillets the fish and cooks it fresh – for now he's doing that himself as chef.
Whole fish hang in the glass-panelled cool room, and a glass cabinet is filled with filleted fish and oysters on ice. There are four tables outside and a couple of bar stools inside, so you can down half a dozen oysters while you wait for your order.
“We wanted to do something small and engage customers with seafood. Kids come and see the fish and they love it and want to know where it’s from,” says Germanchis.
Fish by Moonlite sources Victorian fish from Portland, on the state’s south-west coast, and from markets.
It sells traditional fish’n’chips, and the in-house batter is laced with a touch of vodka – to keep it crispy – and cooked in cottonseed oil. Fish of the day could be John Dory, sand flathead or rockling, and there’s flake – “because everyone wants flake when they get fish’n’chips,” Germanchis says.
The Fish Hut
About an hour and a half from Melbourne, at the recently renovated Portsea Hotel (it re-opened in December), this wood-shingled cabana-style fish’n’chips hut doubles as an outdoor bar. At white-framed windows with terrazzo sills, order ale-battered gurnard or rockling, or grilled ora salmon, plus chips, calamari rings, potato cakes, dim sims and a take on the Chicko Roll.
The menu is the work of head chef Jonathan Alston (previously executive chef at Richmond pizza joint Baby and executive chef Paul Tyas.
The Fish Hut selects its fish through the Goodfish Project, which encourages chefs and restaurateurs to commit to using only sustainable seafood.
Once you’ve picked up your order, head out onto the deck with a beer for views of the bay, or grab a bottle of wine from the bottle shop and eat on the grass in front of the hotel or down on the sand.