Deep fried squid, calamari, salt and pepper squid – whatever you want to call it and whichever way you want to fry it – it comes up on every other menu in Sydney. From pubs to fine diners, Italian institutions to the local fish and chip shop, we scooted around Sydney to see who's frying up the cephalopods in the most interesting of ways, and letting you pay for your salty fried treat using your American Express.
You can’t call yourself a true Sydneysider unless you’ve had at least one post-rager dinner at Golden Century. Here, they’ll salt and pepper pretty much anything that stays still long enough, and while the tofu is good, the calamari takes the cake here. The golden strips have been shown no mercy by the hand that seasons it, with extra garlic and fiery red chilli on top. You will reach for big gulps of Chinese tea between mouthfuls.
This has to be the crispiest salt and pepper squid in the city. Each tiny squid and errant tentacle comes cloaked in a light batter that delivers a serious crunch when you bite into it, and it comes with a side of wasabi mayo for a heated, creamy kick. Add in a yuzu-spiked Old Fashioned and some ultra fresh sashimi and you’ll see exactly why this modern MacLeay St izakaya is still going strong.
There’s a good chance you’ve had both chicken and pork katsu, but what about calamari katsu? This waterfront Japanese diner does a cracker katsu crumbed squid – it comes skewered like yakitori, and the panko bread crumbs are fried a golden brown. Order up a side of sashimi and you’ve got an excellent seafood repast on the cards.
A summer afternoon on the greens of Bondi Bowling Club is a great way to round out the weekend, and fuelling up for a game with a serve of salt and pepper calamari from the bistro is an excellent idea, too. It comes with a Vietnamese-style salad, replete with tendrils of snow pea shoots, finely diced shallots, bright sprigs of coriander and a nuoc cham-style dressing to spice it up.
This Potts Point restaurant boasts a full house, rain, hail or shine, plus excellent service and some damn good calamari. Their gussied up of version of the chip shop favourite isn't always on the menu, but when you see the words 'Sant’ Andrea squid fried', scrawled on the wall you're in for a treat. Neatly fried slices of squid and whole baby squids are surprisingly light for a fried dish. In place of classic aioli and you get a balsamic dressing that’s so vigorously whipped it’s rendered creamy.
There are more options for seafood in Manly than you can throw a chip at, but Fishmongers stands out from the crowd. The calamari comes three ways (crumbed, salt and pepper, or grilled) and the batter in the fried editions enhances rather than competes with the flavour of the cephalopod. To the side are excellent hand-cut chips that are streets ahead of the usual fare (and if you're feeling like something fresh instead of fried, you can opt for steamed veggies and brown rice). These guys also try to do the right thing by our ocean friends by selling MSC certified seafood.
This Lane Cove pub will fry you up a cracking rendition of the summery seafood staple. A gentle nudge of chilli salt and oil offers up a mild spicy hum, and the portion size is just right for a light lunch. Generous garnishes add in extra flavour with plenty of shallots, coriander and slices of fresh chilli, and you won’t have any lime aioli left over. Coeliac friends can also enjoy this dish – unlike most S&P squid, it’s gluten free.
This Glebe Point Road boozer will fry you up salt and pink peppercorn spiced squid every day of the week. Each piece is sliced so the batter permeates the soft flesh, and it's flash fried so it's got a good crunch to it. It comes served on a rocket salad that is freshened up with a zippy pomegranate dressing, and there's a decent serve of garlic aioli to dunk it in. Add a glass of crisp rose and head out to the sunny beer garden for summery good times.
This dish is the antidote to every overly-fried serve of calamari you've ever eaten. The restaurant inside this Camperdown urban farm takes grilled squid and freshens it up with garden herbs (picked from the nearby community garden), uses a pilaf to provide a carby hit, adds crunch courtesy of pine nuts, and rounds it all out with an earthy cumin and coriander harissa.