Cold night, hot fish

Name: The Fish Shack

Address: 105 Petrie Plaza, off Bunda Street, Civic, ACT, 2612


As the weather gets colder my mind turns to certain foods. Soups and stews are the obvious ones, with hands wrapped around steaming bowls, warming form inside and out. Big piles of noodles work, too. But when it comes to getting take-away there is only one thing I crave when the mercury heads south: fish’n’chips.

There is something wonderful about the heat you get from the paper-wrapped serve, about the wisps of steam that rise from the broken chips. In fact, the only thing that makes the combination of freezing weather and fish’n’chips is a cliff overlooking a stormy ocean. Sadly, Canberra is a little short on them.

In fact, Canberra has been a little short on fish’n’chips in general. We don’t have the little local joints where you get minimum chips wrapped in newspaper with a chunky bit of battered flake, and a few more potato cakes (scallops, to those of you north of the Murray) than you ordered. These places weren’t always good, but it didn’t matter. You knew what you were getting.

But Canberra has never seemed to have these, especially in Civic. In the past, whenever I’ve had the craving for deep-fried filets I’ve had two choices: either walk the half hour to O’Connor for Flatheads, or cook my own.

Now, that has changed.

New to Petrie Plaza, the Fish Shack is finally a place to get takeaway fish in Civic. A tiny stand-alone rotunda with a fine dining trained chef, this is no neighbourhood chipper. The giant chunks of flake are replaced with more sustainable fare, the potato cakes are gone all together. And rather than the faint taste of old oil, there is an odd, but not unpleasant, sweetness to the food.

The fish pieces are small and delicate, but beautifully flakey, soft white flesh. Personally I’d prefer slightly crunchier batter, but they certainly do their job. Chips are one of those foods that are hard to screw up to badly. Here they are crisp and hot, if not particularly astounding. They are good, basic chips.

While the fish’n’chips are, I am sure, the main part of the Fish Shack’s business, their range extends to other seafood (and other) choices, such as a mahi-mahi burger that is a mess to eat, but is very fresh and light.

In the Fish Shack Basket you get an up-market seafood basket that gives a fair idea of their whole range. Prawns are plump and sweet, while salt and pepper squid is beautifully tender but a little lacking in flavour. Their fish cake has a great, gentle Thai spice to it, but is sadly dry. I can imagine it working well slathered with aioli or something similar, but by itself it didn’t quite work.

The star of the bunch was the crisp-fried soft shell crab. Usually I find these far too floury, and lacking in the sweetness of the best crabs. Yet here there was an abundance of sweet crabmeat.

The crab demonstrates the point of this place, and should be a lesson for anyone that wants to do good fast food. All it takes is some quality ingredients treated with respect. The Fish Shack’s fish’n’chips aren’t the best I’ve ever had, but they are tasty, they are hot, and they are very worthwhile.

As the nights get colder, they will certainly fill that craving more than once.


About freehugstommy

Food, films and politics are my triumvirate of passions.
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