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Cuisine Undercover - Fish Bar - 2 stars

01 Nov 2011

A bit of character, not class, by the water …

Docklands sometimes reminds me of an old girlfriend I had at university. By night (and after a few drinks), oh how she sparkled. She could be beautiful, warm and welcoming, making me glad to be alive and glad to live in Melbourne. But by day she could be cool and aloof, still beautiful (or so I thought) but others felt her to be remote and somewhat austere …

I thought of this girl as I headed towards NewQuay for lunch on a Tuesday. No set destination in mind, just some lunch by the water where I could enjoy one of my favourite views. But Docklands, oh my darling Docklands, sometimes you make it so hard …

The first place I encountered, the first place anyone encounters at the entrance to NewQuay, was NewQuay Buffet. But it is closed on Tuesdays. The next spot, Waterside Oriental did look quite lively, but you have to be in a specific mood for yum cha and I’m afraid I wasn’t. I could have gone some Indian, which is what the next spot, ShiRaaz, was offering – but not for lunch, or not during the week at any rate. And then there was Outback Jacks – a steakhouse offering lots of big, American-style meals. It looked like it should be cheap and fun – but the meals were really pricey and with so many other steakhouses in Docklands these days, you’d think they’d be working a bit harder for the competition. Particularly given it was empty.

By the time I reached the Fish Bar I was already tired and starting to slump. Perhaps some simple fish by the water’s edge would revive the passion with which I’d started out? I did briefly wonder if I could review a fish ’n’ chip shack – but it passed one of my key criteria – it sold wine by the glass – and so down we sat.

Fish Bar is the kind of thing Docklands needs more of. The “pod” over the water’s edge is the closest thing to a beach shack Docklands has to offer and it adds a real bit of character. Plus families need access to some simple, cheap fare they can take away and there ain’t much of that around. It’s also a plus to be able to sit outside in the sun, with most of the southern-facing NewQuay Promenade often doused in shade.

The choices aren’t huge at Fish Bar, but the fact it also offers sushi and salads with the fried stuff gives it extra kudos. Nothing special – the Greek Salad for example lacks olives, but you are at a fish ’n’ chip shack after all so how fussy can you be? I thought it best to go with something completely traditional – flake ($6.50) and a potato cake ($1.00). It’s been that many years since potato has passed my lips – let alone the deep fried variety – I was virtually salivating by the time it arrived.

Unfortunately, the potato was still slightly raw and crisp to bite (on the inside, not outside) and so my decision to ingest carbs was not quite as rewarding as anticipated. The flake, on the other hand was a touch overcooked, the batter the slightly wrong shade of golden, veering more towards brown. With a squirt of garlic aioli however and a squeeze of lemon juice, it tasted just fine. A $7 glass of Classic Dry White from Margaret River cut through the oil and matched the quality of the food – not great by any means, but not out of line with expectations.

Families can pick up a “family pack” for $39, or the individual can grab the “fish ’n’ chip” pack for $9.80 – but be aware the fish in the packs is mostly blue grenadier, not flake. You can also get the original South Melbourne Market dimmies for just $1.90 each. If dieting, you can choose to get your fish char-grilled, after it’s been marinated in garlic, chilli and parsley – but who goes to a fish ’n’ chip shop to eat char-grilled food?

The menu in general tells you Fish Bar is making an effort at least, even if the cooking when we visited fell a bit short. And look, I know it was a Tuesday and I know she’s not always like this, but this area of Docklands in particular could maybe try a bit harder. Because first impressions count.

Location: 25 NewQuay Promenade

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  • Gastro Gnome at 4:48pm on 09/11/11

    I spend a bit of time in the NewQuay area. I feel I have to leap to the defence of this precinct’s eateries - for good reason.

    NewQuay Buffet does a fantastic lunch for a fixed price all you can eat. It is unfortunate you chose Tuesday, their day off.

    Waterside Bistro - it does great yum chas. I have eaten there a number of times.

    ShiRaaz - yes I am afraid they do not open for lunch except Friday. That ought not, in itself, be cause for crticism - it is a commercial decision. They offer an exceptionally high standard of Indian cuisine.

    Outback Jacks! I haven’t eaten there, and so cannot really comment.

    ... and so it was you terminated your sourjourn at the Fish Bar. Say no more!

    Beyond the Fish Bar, NewQuay has a plethora of great eating places. It is definately worthy of a visit - and if FishnChips is what you fancy - well you get what you pay for! I personally prefer the variety I make at home - it does not leave a layer of grease on your gums.

    Otherwise, love your work UCC.

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