From old-school corner shops to edgy, Japanese-British fusion, Melbourne’s best fish and chip joints will have you licking the chicken salt off your fingertips.
The best fish and chips in Melbourne
This is by no means your standard takeaway corner shop. Tommy Ruff’s even has its own hashtag – #eatwithtommy. The newer outpost of a family of second-generation fryers is in Windsor, and this branch boasts beautiful mosaic-tiled floors, dangling lights and a glowing pirate skull – it’s all rather suave for a fish and chip shop. The menu skips between the traditional – the ‘Rod and Reel’ box contains chubby fish bites, calamari, prawn and herb-salted chips (which are our pick of the crop – crisp outside, fluffy inside and perfectly seasoned) – and more sophisticated menu items like mussels in a tomato and chilli sauce or 'Tommy's tacos', a fish taco that also comes in a gluten-free option. Charming service means there’s nothing ruff about Tommy.
The nautical decor – photos of salty sea dogs on the walls and Popeye and Olive Oil on the bathroom doors – is an appropriately whimsical backdrop for a fine fish and chip experience in landlocked Fitzroy. The traditional British Fish and Chips gets top marks: a flaky slab of blue grenadier encased in golden tempura batter arches over a bundle of chunky chips. It wouldn’t be complete without a scoop of minted mushy peas, perfectly textured and the colour of Robin Hood’s tights. The chips – hand cut, no less – have more in common with a roasted potato than a French fry, and are the perfect vehicle for tartare.
Coburg’s industrial streets are an unlikely location for a fish and chip shop, though the grim concrete view doesn’t deter the crowds, who have good reasons for their loyalty to Blu. The bright, split-level space bustles with tradies grabbing fish burgers, couples cooing over grilled prawns and families sharing gargantuan oval platters laden with fried things. The fried fish tastes fresh and is armoured in a thick, golden batter with reinforcements from crisp and bountiful chips. You definitely want to add a few calamari rings – these supersized beauties are big enough to lasso a shark. From the griller, a blushing-pink salmon fillet is bang-on medium rare and pairs beautifully with a pear and rocket salad. Maybe the one-stop-shop element is what ensures the crowd's unwavering support. All appetites are catered for, from the humble souvlaki to a luxe supper of crayfish and natural oysters.
Tank is a fresh, bright, pared-back space lit with an azure-tiled communal table and a display cabinet of fresh seafood. Mild, sweet flathead is veiled in a pale tempura batter that’s so light and grease-free you’ll forget it’s deep-fried. Chips are dusted with an addictive herb salt and a flurry of tiny, deep-green fried parsley leaves. Notably tangy tartare seals the deal. Add on a fresh and herbaceous cabbage and carrot coleslaw as a foil to the fry.
Footscray may be better known for its pho than its fish, but Ebi serves up excellent Japanese/British fusion fish and chips and it totally works. Try not shouting ‘banzai!’ (hurrah!) as the oblong hunk of blue grenadier in bronze beer batter, sprinkled with dried nori accompanied by a bountiful serve of crunchy chips and sweet kewpie mayonnaise arrives at your table. Order a soba noodle side salad with bracken fern nameko mushroom, bamboo sesame and soy dressing. This tiny shop also turns out bento boxes, tofu cheesecake and their legendary veggie balls that have made them a prime lunch destination.
While you can purchase fresh fish at the Fish Market in Richmond, it’s more of a polished and comfortable eat-in fish and chipper than a fresh-off-the-docks kind of place. The menu is packed with the classics – fried fish, burgers, grilled seafood, salads and skewers – and they are excellent. Particularly memorable is the light and lacey batter on the fish. Crisp, stout chips are worth their weight in salt, as are the sweet potato version. Salads – Greek, tabbouleh and Asian slaw – are robust and verdant, not limp and languid affairs and provide a fresh counterpoint to the batter.
Number 844 High Street Thornbury has been a purveyor of fish and chips in Melbourne for over 70 years. The retro, green-tiled shopfront is currently occupied by Fish on High, whose industrious fryers serve a devoted takeaway crowd (there are only a few bar stools available inside). A flake fillet comes concealed in a thick batter that is wonderfully gnarly 'round the edges and chips are plentiful. This tastes just like the fish and chips of your childhood.
Those planning to hit this old-school, no-nonsense (it’s a chippery without the frippery) joint for their Good Friday fillet should set up camp outside the Chester Street shop now. It gets busy. If you interpret queues as indicators of quality, you’d be bang on in this case. The fish of the day, typically flake, is sweet, firm and clad in a crisp and textured batter. Chips are thick, and you are allowed the fundamental, but all too rare, human right of choosing your own seasoning (chicken salt, pepper, oregano or vinegar). A point of note is that the dim sims are a definite cut above the ghoulish approximations that usually haunt chip shops.
Sea Salt’s expansion means your crew can now feast indoors from a menu that casts a wide net. The fish and chips is a clean-cut version of the classic, featuring a long, flaky-fresh blue grenadier fillet in crunchy batter alongside pale, starchy chips. Portions aren’t huge, so plunder the fisherman’s basket for additional crumbed treasures – prawn, scallop and a few calamari rings. Flathead fillets in a chilli ginger marinade are a wholesome thrill from the grill; and for those who like their seafood raw can choose from a sushi bar stocked with hand rolls, sushi and sashimi.
Theo’s is a no-frills fish and chip shop with just a few tables inside and out. It’s geared toward takeaway, with young families and school kids ordering up big. Its unique selling point is a gluten-free batter that’s just as crisp and moreish as its wheat-based counterpart. Theo’s potato cakes, calamari, dim sims and rotating salads are also gluten-free. The chips have that manufactured taste that begs for a healthy sprinkling of chicken salt. A better order are the hand-cut potato cakes. Staff, with all the wrapping skill of ancient Egyptian embalmers, kindly make sure meals are packaged up at the last possible moment to prevent any sogginess.