There are times when I hanker for great fish; something more than a battered bundle of joy wrapped in paper with crispy chips – that’s another delight entirely. No, I want the real thing, unadulterated; a perfectly cooked buttery piece of coral trout or red emperor, or the indulgence of tasting the salty brine of oysters, freshly shucked by the fishmonger, dripping off my tongue. Play with it you must? Then give it to me Greek style, charred over a grill, a rustic bucket of ‘Moules Marinières’ – mussels with crusty bread, or Manhattan chowder, a rich seafood stew laden with fruits of the sea. That’s what I want.
Finding fresh local seafood is a reward for people in the know. Of course it shouldn’t be when we live on the edge of the ocean. But it is. A clutch of top seafood restaurants can be relied on to dish up the goods. Or you can fight off the seagulls at fish and chip shops. But where can you dine casually on great fish overlooking a view of our famous waterways?
Wonder no more. Fortunately, Peter Cianci (who also owns neighbouring Edgewater and Fisherman’s Wharf in Main Beach with his wife Tracey), realised that the potential of The Fish Emporium (which he opened in late 2013 as a mostly retail outlet), was underutilised. A quick makeover for the former shopfront to include an oyster bar, an invitingly hot new menu, and ‘Voilà!’ – an upmarket dine in/take away seafood restaurant was launched.
The view is stellar. Looking across its own cul-de-sac of water to Surfers Paradise, this is one of the few water and cityscape views that’s equally enticing by day and night, enhanced by its proximity to the city. Magnificent! Every table shares the view. Even the takeaway dining tables on a lower level close to the water are still fabulous. Choose to arrive by boat and you can dock your (smallish) craft directly in front of your table!
We’re dining in house and, finding many favourites on the seafood laden menu, the choice is difficult, warranting many return visits.
“Everything is fresh here,” Peter tells us in passing, explaining that his fishmongers prepare fish daily for both The Fish Emporium and Edgewater as well as for retail sales. No worries about turnover!
Oysters, a centrepiece of the menu, are shucked daily, served in sets of 4 ($14 – 16) with wine pairings recommended. Sashimi, share plates of seared Canadian scallops, Coconut prawns, D.I.Y Beef San Choy Bow, Grilled baby octopus and Softshell crab lead us up to the Daily Catch – the best fillets or whole fish from Australia and New Zealand or fresh crustaceans straight from the tank.
On the day we dine we pass up the seasonal special of Chilli Mud Crabs, about 2kg of finger-sticking yumminess for $59, choosing instead a feast of fish.
Firstly, Hot Smoked Salmon served with tomato salsa, fried capers and a lemon vinaigrette bold enough to offset the smoky flavours lingering on the fillet. This is our favourite smoked salmon, prepared by a local supplier, reminiscent of salmon we’ve eaten on NZ’s West Coast, high praise indeed. I’d need no more than this for a meal, the fish is so delicious slathered onto the accompanying grilled toast!
Next, some John Dory (no relation to the misnamed ‘dory’ AKA Basa). Like many of the best seafood restaurants, this ‘daily fish’ is presented with little adulteration, its finely flaking, delicate sweet flesh bringing enough joy without a battering. Perfect!
We also share a traditional New England Seafood Chowder, its rich creamy stock laden with prawns, fish, mussels and scallops. Served with a crusty roll it would make a hearty meal for cooler nights ($18).
We note that the chowder is also available as a takeaway ($14), along with oysters, fresh local prawns, and several classic fish dishes served with chips, lemon and tartare, and your choice of additional sides. Grab your catch to eat more informally in the alfresco area near the water, or purchase fresh seafood to cook at home.
Of course there are options for non-seafood diners, not to mention dessert, but here seafood is king, and rightly so. While some may complain about the price of seafood, keep in mind that cost is relative: this is prime product in a top location.
Fully licensed, The Fish Emporium’s drinks menu is extensive, including some top label champagnes and pinot noir, as well as cocktails and mocktails. There’s no better place to sit with a rosé or cocktail in hand as the sun descends, enjoying the view of city lights reflected off the water. A casual Gold Coast ‘Fish and chips’ experience doesn’t come much better than this!
Capri on Via Roma, Isle of Capri Ph: 07 5539 9257
Open: Wed – Sun 11am – late