Charcoal Fish is the charcoal-seafood equivalent of the suburban chook shop by pioneering Australian chefs Josh and Julie Niland. The inspiration is simple: to extend the joy, convenience and affordability of a takeaway charcoal-chicken dinner to the world of fish.
Unlike a regular fish-n-chipper, Charcoal Fish celebrates just one native Australian fish: sustainably farmed Murray cod by Aquna, sourced from Griffith, NSW. It’s chosen for its tender flesh, sweet flavour and robustness on a charcoal grill, as well its consistency throughout the seasons.
For anyone with a charcoal-chook shop on their high street, the menu here will feel familiar. Takeaway and eat-in options include whole, half and quarter Murray cod fillets with pickles, floury baps and chips. There’s barbequed cod fillet; bread rolls stuffed with rotisserie cod, gravy, skin and stuffing; cod-collar “wings”; and a good old fish’n’chips.
As charcoal chicken is brined, Niland’s cod is aged for a week. This process conditions the skin so when it goes onto the barbeque, it crackles almost like pork, and the flesh stays tender.
In step with Niland’s no-waste philosophy, the entire fish is utilised. Cod collars grilled over charcoal and brushed with tamarind and fermented Scotch bonnet sauce are a proxy for hot wings. Gravy is made from heads, frames and fins. Offal is made into charcuterie for retail and service at Niland’s other venues, Saint Peter and Fish Butchery. Roast potatoes are cooked in fish fat, which is also the star in a Murray cod-fat caramel ice-cream.
Although Charcoal Fish is about bringing fish to the masses, it’s more upmarket than the average roast chook shop. In lieu of classic sides such as roast carrots or scalloped potatoes, you might find grilled leeks and green garlic; grilled bullhorn and Turkish peppers; kohlrabi remoulade; and radicchio with grilled grapes.
Cocktails, such as the Saint Peter Martini (Tanqueray gin, Ketel One vodka, trout roe, banana, sake) and the Charcoal Fish Old Fashioned (rye whisky, Murray cod-fat salted caramel, burnt beetroot skin), are by Re–’s Matt Whiley. The wine list is all Australian.
Looks-wise, though, it does resemble a charcoal-chicken or fish’n’chip shop. Menu screens hang above the handsome marble-topped counter, where fresh salads and hot sides sit behind glass cases. Stools and counters have been installed behind bi-fold windows to accommodate the dine-in crowd.