Dining Review: Fish Cafe Balgowlah on Sydney’s northern beaches
Beverley Hudec, Manly Daily
October 21, 2016 4:47pm
All eyes on the pie please. The buffed puff pillow at Fish Cafe Balgowlah has a huge fishy fan club.
There’s been a lot of eyes, pies and even a prize in the last two years. Since its introduction, head chef Julian Halfacree has lost count of just how many fish pies his open kitchen has pumped out. He thinks that it could be close to a staggering 65,000.
Our pie, let’s call it number 64,738 for argument’s sake, is filled with big, chunky pieces of pink snapper, tiger prawns and a rich cream infused with fennel, lemon zest, lemon juice and herbs encased in a deliciously flaky pastry crust.
This prizewinner (it won bronze at the Great Aussie Pie Competition in 2014) has a secret ingredient. Halfacree won’t digress publicly what’s in the sauce, but it does add another dimension to this already richer-than-rich signature dish. It’s served simply with just a small mixed salad. It is all you need.
Pie fans love it, and our plate, like the others on a busy weekday evening, goes back to the kitchen empty, except a few pastry flakes.
I thought it was just tad too rich, but the teen with hollow legs, had no complaints, polishing off the lot.
It certainly does go down very nicely with an $8 glass of house rose. The Fish Cafe has been open for six years and a still keeps its BYO price at $3 a head.
If you’re watching your waist, or pies aren’t your thing, the fish-based menu has plenty of alternatives.
Oysters come three ways and there’s salt and pepper squid and garlic king prawns for entree.
Fish and chips are always a winner — Halfacree serves this classic main course with his take on mushy peas. Walk around the glass-fronted restaurant on the plaza at Stockland and you’ll find the takeaway window where locals pick up their $10 orders of takeaway fish and chips.
Like Garfish, The Fish Cafe offers a selection of seasonal fish served with a choice of accompaniments. The kitchen sticks to one method of cooking.
Catch of the Day — as it is called — is grilled, so it ticks the healthy box. Each choice can be matched with garnishes like Thai jungle curry, or a salad of kale, quinoa, orange and beetroot. These change almost monthly, Halfacree says.
One of the Spring choices has asparagus, and our grilled tuna is served with pan-roasted asparagus, pureed cauliflower and shoestring potato. It’s not going to get lots of Instagram likes, as it’s not particularly pretty, but it has plenty of flavour.
Halfacree has learnt how to make kimchi, so expect to see more Asian influences including pickled veg and sashimi on the menu. Sashimi has already been added as a weekend special.
Caesar salad will be pimped for summer and plated with smoked salmon and prawns. Halfacree is also talking about going retro too, so bring on the prawn cocktail, grab an bottle of chilled white and book an alfresco table.
Six years on, this Balgowlah restaurant has become a local favourite and won a swag of awards (they’re proudly displayed on the wall).
Here’s to another 65,000 fish pies.
Fish Cafe Balgowlah
Shop 70, 215 Condamine St, Balgowlah
Phone: 9949 4945
Open: Seven days, lunch, 11.30am to 3.30pm; dinner from 5pm
Go for: pink snapper and prawn pie, $29.80; selection of fresh grill fish with garnishes, from $29.80; salt and pepper squid, $16.80
Wine: Licensed, BYO wine, corkage $3 a head
Vibe: Quite a catch
Bottom line: $90.40