My first main at new Balgowlah seafood restaurant Fish Face was perfectly representative– there at my table stared a gobsmacked baby barramundi, ugly as hell but tasting of heaven. Well, heaven with a slightly briny, muddy tang, the hallmark of fresh stuff, even if it had been fried. It had a lovely meaty moist texture and was crispy with lemon pepper and coriander ($42); it and went perfectly, I thought quite surprisingly, with the sides of pumpkin and asparagus.
It’s probably offensive to rave about a pumpkin side when you’re dining at a restaurant which puts so much into its seafood, but it really was a dish that stood out. Roasted with caramelised red onion and chickpeas ($14), it was a celebration of the nutritious orange powerhouse vegetable.
But back to the seafood. Kingfish Sashimi, jalapeno, cucumber, lemon infused olive oil ($21), was a refreshing starter and one I’d definitely repeat. The Prawn hot pot with mild chilli, garlic and lemon butter served with sourdough baguette ($19) was as delicious as I expected and didn’t last on the table long enough to be photographed. For my taste, a similar dish at the Pantry on Manly’s beachfront is the best one I’ve had, but this one is a happy second.
I was really impressed with the generosity of seafood meat in the Crab and Prawn Pasta, Angel hair pasta, cherry tomatoes, chilli, basil ($38) and think it’s a must try.
They have a huge drinks selection – in fact the venue looks as much a trendy watering hole than a restaurant and caters well for drinkers with stools at the bar, but I was content with my one and only drink, which was a real beauty – Madame Coco Brut (Blanc De Blanc) France ($11). They have a great selection of Northern Beaches brews, which is always great to see.
They have cleverly created a separate takeaway nook and it’s very reasonable given the quality on offer – a single piece of fish is $9 and a family sized fish and chips with four pieces of orange roughie, battered chips, tartare and lemon ($39).
Another notable mention was the kids menu – The kids’ fish was excellent (my son always has to pay mum tax) and it came with watermelon which I appreciated.
It was such a thoughtful kids menu I assumed the owners had children – but it turns out owners Shahid Rahman and Anna Walker are a young couple with their priorities elsewhere right now; they just know what customers, big and little, want.
Shahid and Anna are already familiar with running a food biz. Shahid took over the Little Viet Kitchen in Manly a few years ago (he got his first start at Manly Grill some 14 years ago) and Anna soon joined in.
The pair met while working at the Sebel Manly and today live just opposite where Fishface now sits in that newish looking square at the street level above Stocklands.
Why fish? I ask them. Is it because there was a fish café there before?
“Prior to opening we spoke to the locals and the majority of the response was that they would like to have a fresh seafood restaurant, which can’t be found in the neighbourhood,” Anna tells us.
“We were mindful that we wanted to keep the same cuisine, however make it our own by redesigning the venue and menu, and for it to appeal to the wider community of Northern Beaches.”
The space also underwent a significant redesign, it’s a bit of upgraded 60s aesthetic, very pleasant, similar in ways to the revamped Harbord Hotel. Interesting then, that its head chef Adam Rust once worked at the redesigned Freshwater venue.
“We pride ourselves on providing fresh Seafood daily. Our Executive Chef Adam Rust takes regular trips to Flemington and the Sydney Fish Markets,” Anna says.
“Adam has established connections with a vast array of Suppliers and Buyers across all aspects of the Food Service industry. We only use Australian and New Zealand sourced seafood (both wild and farmed) and all of our staples in our menu are ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certified farmed products.”
Overall, the new restaurant provides a space that seems to cover it all – perfect for a date, a family catch up, a friends night out, a lunch meeting, and even our young family were well accommodated with enough room between tables for a pram. But the food is a great offering as well; it’s not just a pretty face.
Fish Face is located at 70/215 Condamine St, Balgowlah. They are open 7 days and take reservations online as well as via their website.
12pm – 3pm
5pm – Till Late
Fish Face is fully licensed.
BYO wine only is accepted for Lunch and Dinner every Monday, except Public Holidays. A corkage of $7.50 per person applies. If the date or time desired is unavailable on our booking calendar, please call the restaurant on 02 8068 4989 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Check it out for yourself, visit them on instagram @fishfacebalgowlah
Transparency check: This is a genuine, unsponsored review with no approvals or preview provided to the venue. The meal was provided for free for the purposes of review, however, and we all know free food tastes that little bit sweeter.