Beverley Hudec, Manly Daily
November 28, 2018 3:00pm
Menus change, dishes come and go, but eight years on three are enshrined on the Fish Cafe menu. Owner Con Ionnides knows that his fish pie, seafood chowder and traditional fish and chips are perennial favourites with customers.
The seafood chowder is a rich, creamy-based soup served in a hot pot with a selection of fresh fish, mussels, prawns and bacon and crusty bread to mop up the sauce. The restaurant could even turn it into a roaring side line, Mr Ionnides said.
“Customers want to buy it and take it home with them. We’ve got to really wow the customers,” he said.
Traditional fish and chips might not have the wow factor, but it’s a double act that’s hard to beat. Flathead, chips and housemate tartare sauce come straight from the kitchen with a something a little different — mushy peas.
Then there’s the acclaimed fish pie. Orders can reach as many as 300 a week. This prize winner — it won bronze at the Great Aussie Pie Competition in 2014 — is a half-moon puff pastry pillow filled with big, chunky pieces of pink snapper, tiger prawns and a rich cream infused with fennel, lemon zest, lemon juice and herbs. One closely guarded ingredient sets it apart and adds another dimension to this richer-than-rich signature dish.
The award-winning restaurant’s trademark has always been consistency, Mr Ionnides said.
“We always use fresh produce from our fish shop. Keeping up the quality and keeping it simple makes a difference.”
Oysters are shucked and fish is filleted for the Balgowlah restaurant’s menu at Ionnides’ Mona Vale fishmongers, Pittwater Seafood. Seasonal fish is sourced from the Sydney Fish Market.
Fish Cafe has seven choices like snapper and blue eye on as lunch specials. They are served simply grilled with chips, tartare sauce and a salad. If you love a bit of beer batter, then sand whiting and barramundi can be deep fried. If you’re thinking wallet rather than waistline, battered barramundi with chips and salad is currently a $15.80 super lunch special.
There’s more than chips-with-everything. Entrees include garlic prawns, salt and pepper squid and baked scallops; while mains feature tomato-mild chilli-and very-garlicky bug meat and king prawn tagliatelle, as well as the pie, traditional fish and chips and chowder Triumvirate.
The evening menu is more creative and expansive. The day’s selection of fresh fish comes as mix and match accompaniments like jungle curry or quinoa salad.
Expect to see more cold seafood dishes and new, lighter garnishes as the weather warms. Pair grilled blue eye or salmon with mango and avocado, both would work equally well. And for traditionalists there will always be the pie, chowder or fish, chips and mushy peas.
The Price: 3.5/5
The Price: Details: Fish Cafe Balgowlah, Shop 70/197-215 Condamine St, Balgowlah. Bookings: 9949 4945. Open: Six days, lunch from 11am; dinner from 5pm. Closed Mondays.