Sydney’s best foodie experience

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Getting fishy with it at the Sydney Seafood School

Yes it’s a big claim but I’m calling it.

To me a great foodie experience needs to be engaging, immersive, authentic, and above all, tasty.

There’s one experience that ticks all the boxes in my book and that’s a class at the Sydney Seafood School. I’ve now racked up about five or six classes over the years, so consider myself somewhat of a veteran.

Anyone who has spent some time in Sydney will be familiar with the Sydney Fish Market but the Sydney Seafood School takes the experience one step further

the fidgety foodie_sydney seafood school

Our expert seafood instructor

A stroll through the fish market and past the silent auction halls will most certainly put you in a fishy mood as you enter the school and take a seat in the cosy theatrette. In front of you is a demonstration kitchen that puts Masterchef to shame, with cameras capturing the action from every angle on overhead screens. The walls around you are covered in ‘leather’ wallpaper, made from dried Icelandic salmon skins. The designers really took the brief to heart.

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Raised screens capture all the action

Either a well versed home economist or high profile local chef will demonstrate 3-4 recipes which all use supremely fresh seafood, straight from the market floor. Classes cover everything from tapas and paella to how to barbeque seafood.

I most recently experienced the crab double act: Singapore Chilli Crab & Black Pepper Crab, over a three hour class. The heady mix of salty, sweet and hot flavours in these two dishes works beautifully with fresh green blue swimmer crabs.

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Fresh green blue swimmer crabs straight from the market floor

Everyone working at the markets is an expert on seafood so you always get the backstory on the ingredients being used. In this case we learn how to prepare various crabs (who knew crabs had a flap?) and the distinction between varieties and their provenance. Each dish is broken down into steps and we watch the process intently from start to finish.

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Our studious kitchen team

Then it’s time to step next door and put the lesson into practice. We form groups of 4-6 and congregate around our own free standing kitchen. Each person is armed with a recipe booklet and allocated a task so the prep moves at lightning speed. I don’t often cook with crustaceans so I get a thrill from cleaning and segmenting them, knowing I won’t have to clean up the mess. It’s fiddly business. Read More

Fishy business

Everyone loves fish in my family, even Macey

Everyone loves fish in my family, especially Macey

If ever there was an ingredient I was born to embrace, it’s fish.

One of my grandfathers was a seafood chef. The other had a fish shop at Wynyard. I learnt how to catch, gut and cook a fish before I could do anything else useful with food. And tuna salad is my default lunch.


Scaling and gutting a leather jacket

Okay maybe that last one doesn’t count, but in essence I eat more than my share of fish and love it in any shape or form, raw or cooked, from head to tail. Especially the tail. Not to mention the skin, cheeks and eyes. Yes eyes! That’s what my dad taught me and his dad taught him so I never raised an eyebrow : )


Fresh fish on the barbeque with a few snags for good luck

I went fishing recently and am glad to see I can still reel ‘em in. The only way (in my family at least) to cook freshly caught fish is on the barbeque with oil, lemon and occasionally garlic. The oil and lemon form an unctuous sauce which is heaven against the crispy fish skin.

But there’s so much more you can do with fish and it’s one of my favourite things to experience when I travel (provided there is a body of water not too far away – I generally stay away from seafood in landlocked countries).


Smoked salmon, any way you like it

Given the vast seas around them, it’s no surprise that the Scandinavians know a thing or two about fish. I almost wept at the sight of beautiful displays of salmon in Helsinki, radiating a signature peachy-orange glow. Read More

The London restaurant with no chef and no kitchen


The new London restaurant with no chef and no kitchen

How do you feel about food in a can?

Spam, tired veggies, no thanks.

Fish in a can? I love the stuff. I’ve eaten more cans of tuna in my time than John West has ever rejected. Salmon, sardines, the oilier the better please. Add salad leaves, balsamic and a good olive oil and there’s lunch. And I know I’m not alone on that front.

But how do you feel about a restaurant serving canned fish and only canned fish? When I heard that Tincan had opened in London, I had to investigate.


Staff prepare cans at the counter

I chose a rainy Thursday night and my timing couldn’t have been better. Tincan, perched just off Golden Square in Soho, was empty. Perhaps not so good for them but excellent for me. I sat at the bar and quizzed the lovely Lithuanian and French hosts with my myriad questions.

Who came up with this random concept?

Which can is the crowd favourite?

How often does someone order the £45 can of Carelian caviar?


Food or art?

‘A six month project by AL_A sourcing the finest tinned seafood from around the world’ is noted at the top of the menu.

AL_A is a London based design and architecture firm, responsible for projects including the V&A Museum courtyard and Bangkok Central Embassy. While designing a new cultural centre in Lisbon, the directors discovered a restaurant in a former fishing tackle shop that specialised in tinned fish. They were inspired to take the concept back to London and launch their own pop up.


Sleek interiors where the can is the hero

Looking around it’s no shock that a team of architects is behind this. The décor is minimal but chic, with a Monocle-meets-Warhol aesthetic. Wherever you look, the can is clearly the hero.


The menu – all 26 types of canned fish

To see what’s on offer you can simply look around the room, or down at the menu which offers 26 varieties of canned fish, ranging from £7 – £45. There are familiar fish such as sardines, mackerel and anchovies, although you’ll be pushed to recognise a single brand. The further down the menu you go, the more interesting the offering becomes; smoked eel fillets, squid in its own ink, Portuguese-style stuffed squid, bonito belly and clams in their shell with garlic, to name a few.


Open can. Serve can. Your meal is ready.

All the hard work is done before the tins arrive at the restaurant. Much of the fish is caught by traditional methods and even hand packed into tins. The restaurant staff open the tins and serve the contents with salad leaves, fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, chilli and shallots.


The tasting plate, perfect for indecisive diners

I wanted to order everything. Thankfully they offer a tasting plate which makes it easy for the indecisive. Priced at £12, the platter includes tastings of Icelandic cod liver, urchin caviar, slow cooked Galician octopus in olive oil, sardines in spicy olive oil, tuna in molho cru spices and spicy mackerel fillets.


The sardines, mackerel and tuna were all very pleasant but not dissimilar to good quality canned product I’ve eaten before and nothing to write home about.

The other three, however, almost deserve their own posts.


Icelandic smoked cod liver

Being both a fan of liver and having recently been to Iceland, I was surprised and a little embarrassed that I’d never actually eaten cod liver before. The French staffer told me it was a big part of her childhood and standard fare in France. It had an unctuous texture, just like liver from a cow or calf, with a slight fishy flavour and was absolutely delicious, especially with bread. I can see why this is one of the top selling cans.


Icelandic cod liver is the best selling can

The urchin caviar – mixed with onion and lemon before being served – was also a standout. It had a slightly grainy texture and mild flavour so it was a surprise to hear that it’s one of the more polarising offerings on the menu.

The Galician octopus in olive oil was my favourite. A dead ringer for the similarly tender, deliciously marinated Greek-style octopus that I don’t eat nearly as often as I’d like. The Greeks never thought to put it in a can though.

Unfortunately the platter didn’t include a tasting of the Carelian caviar, at £45 it’s the most expensive can on the menu. I’ll have to go back for that one.

The owners spent over a year trying every type of canned fish they could get their hands on, from every corner of the globe. But you wouldn’t know because the menu overwhelmingly features fish from Spain and Portugal, with the odd addition from Iceland and Finland. Apparently even French canned fish was not up to scratch.


Er Boqueron, salt water beer

I’m not one for beer but the other selling point here is the salt water beer, Er Boqueron. Tincan is the sole distributor in the UK and apparently it’s very nice.


The restaurant was a massive hit when it first opened in September (the punters were packed in… like sardines : )

It’s been a little quieter since the cold weather hit. A can of room temperature fish is probably not exactly what most people lust after when the temperature reaches zero and extremities are freezing. Perhaps the restaurant’s six month life span would have been better positioned over the summer months.


I love this concept and I think they just get away with it because of the exceptionally high quality of fish. Seems to be working because according to the website, next stop is New York…

7 Finnish foods that blew me away

Crayfish open sandwhich

Open sandwich with crayfish and fish roe

I had no expectations about Finnish food before I touched down in Helsinki. I craved seafood, I had my fingers crossed for cloudberries, but that was about it.

So it was a wonderful surprise to discover that this unassuming country has plenty of culinary highlights. Jacques Chirac had no idea what he was talking about when he declared that ˝Finland (is) the country with the worst food


There is a refreshing simplicity in traditional Finnish food (maybe that’s why Chirac baulked) which is due largely to the reliance on what can be found in the forest and ocean. The cuisine has also been influenced by Germany, Russia and Sweden over time, so you might recognise a dish or ingredient here and there.


Kauppatori market hall beside Helsinki harbour

The Finns have a fantastic market culture and Helsinki in particular has some brilliant market halls including Hakaniemi and the recently renovated Kauppatori, positioned right next to Helsinki’s bustling harbour.

If you find yourself in this northern neck of the woods then promise me you will try the following…

Lightly fried vendance

Lightly battered and fried vendance

Vendance (muikku)
These tiny fish are a traditional summertime delicacy, especially popular at markets during summer. Similar to whitebait, the fish are lightly breaded and fried, then eaten whole with garlic sauce or lemon. The mild umami flavour and crunchy texture were sensational and they were the perfect snack to enjoy on the boat over to the Suomenlinna fortress.


Yep, that’s Rudolph in a can

Reindeer (poro)
There is a long tradition of hunting in Finland, focusing on reindeer, moose and bear. Put those warm and fuzzy childhood memories of Rudolph aside right now because you will be seeing him everywhere; in kebabs, as thick steaks, cold smoked, even canned. He’ll be sitting right next to the canned bear.

Reindeer kebab anyone?

Reindeer kebab anyone?

Comet, Cupid, Donna and Blitzen...

Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen…

Reindeer meat has a rich gamey flavour, very similar to venison, and is very lean. The slices of cured reindeer were very tasty but I didn’t go as far as buying reindeer in a can.

100% bear meat with only 90% bear...

100% bear meat. Ingredients: bear meat 90%. Go figure.

I was curious about the canned bear meat, but with a price tag of €20 for a tiny can, I decided my money could be better spent elsewhere… like on these babies! Read More