Fish Face has moved! You can find it now at 346 New South Head Road, Double Bay.
We live girt by one of the richest seas in the world. We export a huge amount of fish every day. The thing is if you want to eat the good stuff – we’re talking line-caught, not bumped and bruised from being dragged along the ocean floor by a trawler or blasted out of the water by dynamite – you have to pay for it.
Like anything that’s been raised with care and killed properly (what do they say? A great life with one bad day), there’s a lot more that goes into getting it onto the plate. You won’t find a piece of fish that’s been given more attention than the gear at Fish Face, the tiny Darlinghurst caff run by chef and fish maestro Steve Hodges.
Most of the dining room is taken up with the kitchen. Half the bench is a Hoshizaki static fridge (the Lexus of chilling machinery) for the raw gear and the other half is a counter where the best fish and chips in town are served. But we don’t want to talk about those today. If you want to try the line-caught, beer-battered flathead with salty little golden chip nubbins and chunky tartare sauce you’ll have to head to the restaurant.
Flip open the menu for the Fish Face classics like the blue eye trevalla on potato scales and the fish curry or check out the wall, where the day’s specials are scrawled in black Texta. Slivers of rich swordfish belly are dressed with ponzu and a scattering of chives, crunched up with daikon. Firm-yet-yielding sautéed cuttlefish is served with big plump capers and grated cured egg yolk. The whole thing is covered in a giant potato crisp. So good.
Fish Face doesn’t rely on a hella flash dining space and cotton-gloved service to sell what’s on the plate – they’re relying on good cooking and great product to do that job. The room is simply designed with a green, blue and black geometric pattern on the ceiling and plain walls decorated with the wine list or menu specials. A tank behind the counter is filled with Balmain bugs clambering over each other like ancient fossilised sea creatures come to life.
We leave them to wrestle in the tank and go for a tartare of yellowfin tuna with a punchy mix of pickled green chillies, dried red chillies, parsley and chopped-up capers. Scoop up the hit of heat, salt and acid with crisp, transparent slices of toast.
Not that the cooked fish isn’t incredible too. Firm, delicate bass grouper is topped with a softly poached egg – break it up and mix to enrich a mushroom tea with wild green garlic. Or go super simple with a fluffy omelette filled with prawns and bok choi. Yum.
We won’t lie. Fish Face can get a little exxy. Think of it as a great meal with one bad minute on your credit card.