Like many in the hospitality industry, restaurateurs and chefs Josh and Julie Niland used the coronavirus downtime to take stock of their priorities. “The lockdown period has provided us all with new perspectives,” Josh Niland said in a statement. “For Julie and I, being deprived of the nightly joy that is a busy, happy restaurant prompted us to re-evaluate and make changes.”
To that end, they’ve reformatted their popular and well-respected Paddington seafood diner Saint Peter. Niland, who also runs Fish Butchery, says his favourite seat at any restaurant is at the counter or near the kitchen – so instead having diners on separate tables, he’s returning the space to its pre-Saint Peter days (it used to be a sushi train-style eatery) and installed a counter down the centre of the room. When the restaurant reopens on July 17, the counter will seat 20 people, which Niland reckons will be perfect for solo diners, couples and groups of up to four.
“This layout has long been a dream of ours, to better enable us to share our passion for Australian seafood intimately from just across the counter, curating a truly memorable experience for each of our customers,” says Niland.
Niland, who recently won two prestigious James Beard awards for The Whole Fish Cookbook, will continue to turn out dishes using produce sourced from local, sustainable farmers and fishers.
Two new menus will be introduced: a more casual style for lunch and an å la carte menu for dinner - all of course in-keeping with the philosophy and ethics of sustainable whole-fish cooking. As it did pre-coronavirus, the menu will change regularly, depending on the catch of the day and how Niland intends on using the various parts of the fish. Expect dishes such as live purple sea urchin (sourced from Royal National Park south of Sydney); a coral trout sandwich with tarragon mayo; charcoal-cooked rock flathead with bush-tomato harissa; and ‘nduja (a soft, spicy salami) made from striped marlin. What’s hauled from the ocean isn’t just confined to the mains – Murray cod fat is used in caramel served with a chocolate slice.
Can’t get a seat at the counter? The Mr Niland at Home takeaway option, introduced during lockdown, will continue under the name Fish Butchery at Home (and will be available from that venue). The dishes (which require a tiny bit of home prep) will change regularly – expect anything from yellowfin tuna tacos to swordfish moussaka to double-tuna cheeseburgers.