Chef Peter Manifis has been around seafood his whole life.
Born into a Greek fishing family in Perth, Manifis moved north to the coastal Pilbara town of Onslow when he was one, when his parents bought the local seafood factory. Until the age of 11, the Manifises – Peter, his two older brothers, and their parents – lived in a three-bedroom house behind the factory and were around fish “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. Manifis took baths in fish tubs. His father established prawn fisheries in Australia and overseas. His mother could peel a kilo of prawns in a minute.
While Manifis’s two older brothers became commercial fishermen, Peter maintained a connection to the sea via cooking. After sharpening his skills at Alain Fabregues’s legendary Loose Box in Mundaring, Manifis ran the kitchen at South Perth’s InContro, where he established a reputation as an innate seafood cook. Although the restaurant closed in 2016, Manifis has remained involved in the food industry as a consultant for projects throughout the state. The relaunch of Kailis Fish Market Cafe in Fremantle later this year, however, represents Manifis’s re-entry into the cooking world as well as a changing of the guard.
“George [Kailis, the current patriarch of the Kailis family] and I are basically family from another mother,” says Manifis, who is consulting on the menu. After clubbing together in Northbridge as 18 year olds, the pair began working professionally with Manifis developing recipes for the fish market’s seafood chowder, chilli mussels and oysters Kilpatrick. He was also involved in helping set up the original Kailis Trigg Beach (now Island Market Trigg). “Our fathers started up the Exmouth prawn fishery together,” says Manifis. “With George taking over the realm, we’re going to start changing the way things are done and making chowder, prawn bisque and fish stocks from scratch. It’s going to be a bit more cheffy in a sense, but just in terms of technique. We don’t want to overcomplicate things.”
Since Broadsheet broke the news of the market’s reboot, management has fine-tuned the menu for the ambitious 450-person venture that will feature dedicated seafood stations.
The raw bar, for instance, will serve fresh shucked oysters alongside crudo, Mexican-style ceviche (that is, tomato-juice based) and poke bowls. While seafood cocktails, uni waffles and buckets of steamed lobsters and prawns might stretch the definition of raw, Manifis says these items will chime with Kailis’s vision of fresh, well-handled seafood.
The grilled seafood section will be WA-only, with local cuttlefish, barramundi and snapper on the menu. The fried section will be almost entirely local too, and will include daily market-fresh specials. Diners will be able to choose from up to seven varieties of fish, and the (two different) fish for the fish’n’chips will be from MSC-certified sources. The menu will also include a scallop fritter, plenty of whole fish cooked on the bone, and fish and seafood chowders. Dedicated wine and dessert bars ensure all the important food and drink groups are covered. Full-time filleters will work seven days breaking down fish: another example, says Manifis, of team Kailis’s commitment to quality. This attention to detail won’t just be evident in the quality of the fish, but the diversity of the offering too.
“The biggest change, even for chefs, has been finally getting away from safe fish options and learning to enjoy fish with flavour,” says Manifis. “Things like Australian salmon, sardines and herring and looking beyond the dhufish and red emperor. We love those fish and we love to eat those fish, but they’re not the most sustainable fish in the ocean. Now people are a bit more open to having something like a piece of Mandurah mullet; that’s been the most exciting change for me.”
Kailis Fish Market Fremantle reopens in October 2019.