The combination of salty, crunchy potato with a cold craft beer is one of the most harmonious pub snacks. So it’s worth grasping the right terminology – especially when travelling – to avoid disappointment.
To help us navigate this vexing issue, we spoke to Melbourne beer-and-potato pro Jimmy Hurlston. Hailed the “Burger King” among his strong online following for Jimmy’s Burgers, he’s also the owner of Melbourne burger joints Easey’s in Collingwood and Truck Stop Deluxe in Werribee, as well as Sydney’s Guilty in Darlinghurst. “I have talk about this regularly with my Queensland mates,” says Hurlston. “It’s a real debate.”
“At Easey’s we get quite a few foreigners asking us what a potato cake is,” says Hurlston. “And look, we all know it’s not actually a ‘cake’ as such. But I think it’s a fun word that makes it cheeky, like a treat.”
But maybe he’s wrong about the label, being that one literal definition of cake is: “an item of savoury food formed into a flat round shape, and typically baked or fried.”
At Easey’s you can pair your potato cake with a pot, schooner or pint of beer. Craft beers on tap include Holgate, Tooboorac or Mornington Peninsula, and the potato cake itself has been made with beer batter, rather than the common recipe of soda water. The potato cakes come complete with cracked pepper for an extra kick and available for delivery or visiting Easey’s other new locations, Two Wrongs in South Yarra or The Bottom End in the CBD.
Across the tram tracks from Easey’s, Fitzroy’s Marquis of Lorne in Fitzroy has developed a strong reputation for its potato cakes since opening in 2014. They’re made with beer batter and finished with a sprinkle of chilli salt flakes. For extra indulgence, dip them in aioli sauce, and order a pot, schooner or pint of beer to wash it down. Locals commonly eat the potato cakes as a side to a steak, or late at night to straighten them up a bit.
In Sydney your beers come in a middy, schooner or pint which you pair with a “potato scallop”.
The word, scallop is likely to have derived from the French culinary word, escaloper, meaning to cut into fine slices. But Hurlston thinks it only sort of makes sense.
“Scalloping means to bake something in milk or sauce so it’s not quite right in this context,” he says, “aside from the obvious flaw that a scallop is the name of an animal that comes from the sea – plain and simple.”
You’ll find some of Sydney’s best beer and potato scallops at The Edinburgh Castle Hotel on Pitt Street in the CBD. James Squire’s 150 Lashes Pale Ale forms the potato scallop beer batter and they’re made fresh to order, usually served six at a time and dusted generously with chicken salt. The establishment prides itself on serving Aussie-only beer and more specifically, local Sydney brews. These can safely be ordered with the words: “middy” for a small, “schooner” for a medium, and “pint” for a larger glass.
In Brisbane the preferred term is “scallop”. But confusingly the city’s beer lingo mirrors Melbourne, not Sydney. So, order a pot, schooner or pint of beer to go with your fried treat.
Sea Fuel in Brisbane’s West End is a sleek, family-run fish and chip restaurant serving its house-made potato scallops on the side of sustainably caught, high-quality fish. Quirk: if you’re actually after the scallops from the ocean, make sure to specify “sea scallops” in your order. You can also enjoy your snack under the sun in the restaurant’s outdoor dining area paired with a Little Creatures Pale Ale or IPA.
The word, “fritter” as a verb means to divide something into small pieces. As a noun, it’s a piece of fruit, vegetable or meat coated in batter and deep-fried. The word may have come from Scotland, where they refer to the same snack as a “tattie fritter”. But in Perth, it’s your fried potato goodness.
“Now fritter is a name I can kind of understand,” says Hurlston. “Even though I think of this being a more chopped-up variant of the potato cake.”
Confusingly, in Perth you can pair it with a middy or schooner of beer. But if you order a pot, you won’t get the smaller Melbourne iteration of a beer but the largest glass.
In Ireland, fried potato snacks are popular, but what’s referred to as a potato cake over there is not the same here in Australia. It’s closest relation is the “boxty”, which is more of a grated or mashed potato pancake.
So instead of asking for a potato cake, try one of these Irish pub-grub classics at JB O’Reilly’s in Leederville, best served with a fried egg, gravy or smoked bacon. It’s been a menu favourite here since 1994 and goes down superbly with a middy or schooner of one of the pale ales on tap.
Adelaide refers to the potato snack as a potato fritter. Dissimilar to the rest of Australia, to order a beer in Adelaide you’ll need to ask for a schooner if you’d like the small-serve equivalent to a middy in other states, a pint for a larger glass and “imperial pint” for the largest.
Head to NOLA in Vardon Avenue for a Southern American take on the Aussie potato fritter. Its bite-sized house-made tater tots are made by grating potatoes and hand-rolling them daily with garlic, chervil and mustard. Dip the tater tot snacks in the chipotle mayonnaise and wash them down with a pint from your choice of 16 craft beers on tap.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with James Squire.