The 15th incarnation of the hugely popular Japanese salad bar Fishbowl has opened at Barangaroo, and this time it’s joined by sister venue Side Room.

The cafe first opened in Bondi in 2016, tacked on the side of the original Fishbowl (which outgrew that space, moving to a bigger spot across the way) – hence the name, Side Room. The eateries have a similar ethos – they both serve big bowls packed with a jumble of flavoursome and nutritional ingredients – but Side Room offers 10 superfood smoothies and a couple sandwiches as well. And where Fishbowl has those Japanese flavours and ingredients, Side Room goes Middle Eastern.

“The idea was to create a health-food hub in Barangaroo,” says Nic Pestalozzi, who co-owns both businesses alongside school friends Nathan Dalah and Casper Ettelson. “It was the only part of the city we weren’t in.”

You’ll find the two in Scotch Row, a sunny, pedestrian alleyway that’s also home to Beerhaüs, Bing’s Bao & Beer and Shirt Bar. They share the same space – a 20-by-two-metre room fronted by Fishbowl’s signature custom-made timber stools. Fishbowl is decked out in its characteristic black and white with pink neon, whereas Side Room is in soft greens, whites and pastels. All up there’s seating for 18, plus a standing bench.

“Our mission has always been to change the culture around fast food – to prove that it can be healthy and affordable,” Pestalozzi says.

It’s true – every bowl is crammed with ingredients, and a regular size (starting at $10) will be sufficient for even the hungriest punter.

At either counter you can build your own salad by choosing from bases, proteins, salad-style ingredients and sauces, or go with the house pick. Fishbowl’s The OG comes with salmon sashimi, shallots, kale, beets, red onion and edamame, and a dressing of roasted sesame, seaweed, tobiko (flying fish roe) and crisp shallots. Meanwhile, Side Room has a go-to with beef brisket that’s slow-cooked for eight hours and served with tahini, purple cabbage and lots of herbs and spices.

If you’re feeling like bread, Side Room also serves avocado on Iggy’s and a $10 two-cheese toastie.

For the smoothie concoctions, every ingredient is made in-house with no additives, including the almond milk, oat milk and macadamia butter. The Fireball is a super-tasty blend of banana, mango, coconut, macadamia butter, turmeric, cayenne pepper, dates and coconut water.

“Nathan, Casper and I designed all the smoothies by meeting up once a week, throwing ingredients into a blender and trying them out,” says Pestalozzi. “It was surprisingly difficult, but a lot of fun.”

If you’re in an in-between-meetings lunchtime hurry, you can order ahead online. But if you’ve got time on your hands, it’s tempting to order a takeaway and scoot to the waterfront, where there’s plenty of public seating.

Fishbowl and Side Room
C1/02 Scotch Row, Barangaroo

Mon to Fri 11am–3pm

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on November 14, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.