Lotus has bitten the big one and has gone to that large bistro in the sky. We’re still mourning the loss of the Florence Broadhurst wallpaper and those spun glass chandeliers over the bar, and yes, the bar itself where countless nights were lost in the bottom of a cocktail glass. It's gone but not, as they say in the funny pages, forgotten. In its place is a fish restaurant run by executive chef Jeremy Strode (Bistrode, Bistrode CBD
). It's a little bit 1950s British seaside, a little bit Cape Cod, a little bit Montauk. And very east Sydney.
There’s plenty there to suggest the theme. Brightly painted industrial metal lampshades. The toilets (marked ‘buoys’ and ‘gulls’, with rope doorhandles). The Fishing Club wall where you can have your photo posted with your best catch. There’s even a little antique plaster penguin standing sentry in the dining room.
Lotus bar fans, your bar may be gone but you can still get a good range of drinks here, including a Soursop Daiquiri (the soursop being
a big spiky South American fruit with a similar texture to a custard apple) and crusty, salty Margaritas. Order them out in the dining room up front
or head deeper into the bar, which has been transformed into a fishing den complete with lures on the raw panel wood walls.
While Fish Shop is no-bookings, rest assured most tables aren’t here lingering over a long meal. They’re here for cocktails and perhaps a smoked salmon sandwich. You’ll want to order one of those. Soft brown bread with the crusts cut off holds deep pink slices of smoked salmon with crème fresh and capers. We can't think of anything better than kicking back with one of these suckers and a glass of Adelaide Hills rosé.
The menu is kind of a mix between chip shop classics (deep-fried dim sims, say, or fluffy potato scallops) stepped up very quickly with the likes of blue eye fish fingers – big tender flakes of meaty white fish crumbed-and-deep-fried like piscine missiles programmed to seek and delight.
Strands of fried cuttlefish with garlic, chilli and parsley are served very simply with a cheek of lemon and a few crusts of bread. It's actually a dish owner Justin Hemmes devised, along with the braised octopus with chickpeas. But unlike the octopus, we'd definitely go back for seconds of the crisp, salty and spicy cuttlefish.
It’s Strode behind the pans, though, so you’re likely to see some expertly cooked fish such as the hapuka fillet, cooked in paper and served with slivers of preserved lemon and a wedge of fresh lemon. It comes apart in firm flakes and goes beautifully with a side salad of baby cos lettuce, radish slices and salted cucumber.
Crunchy croquettes of eel and mashed potato with horseradish are all fragrant with smoke and the fish and chips are good enough to rival those at Fish Face
– Cooper’s Pale battered pieces of flathead nest on a pile of hand-cut chips, all skin-on, and creamy and light in the middle.
If eating fish makes you green around the gills, you’ll be happy to know you can still get ex-Lotus chef Dan Hong's (in)famous cheeseburger
here. We maintain it’s still our favourite burger in town with its steamed bun and soft and yielding meat patty covered in melted cheese and bacon.
Did we mention the ice cream sandwich? It’s a Monaco Bar-esque slab of vanilla ice cream sandwiched by two sheets of soft chocolate cake/biscuit with a little puddle of very light salted caramel. It’s a bit like the number they do at Reuben Hills, except maybe a little more refined.
Many have mourned the loss of Lotus but there’s plenty to cheer about at the Fish Shop.