There’s a golden egg that features in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the film, the magical object is used in the Triwizard Tournament, and Potter desperately wants to open it and discover what’s inside. We don’t want to give away any spoilers (though if you haven’t seen it yet, let’s face it, you probably won’t), but what he discovers changes the game. The scotch egg at Petermen – Josh and Julie Niland’s latest restaurant, on the North Shore – is not quite as shiny, but it's just as game-changing.
The mighty egg arrives at our table in a cute, pink bowl, its exterior crumbed and inviting, and we crack it open to find an oozing yolk the colour of a mandarin. Traditionally, the outer layer of a scotch egg is made from pork sausage meat before being coated in breadcrumbs. At Petermen, Niland, along with head chef Joshua Osborne, do what they do best and use a combination of Murray cod, salmon and tuna off-cuts instead. It comes with a creamy, sharp and mustard-spiked mayonnaise to double dip in as you please, as well as fresh parsley and tarragon. It’s a triumph, and we would like our scotch eggs like this forever, thank you.
To go with our egg, we order the Saint Peter Martini with Oyster Shell Gin, sake, vermouth and olive brine, finished with a meaty Sicilian olive, and the night is off to a great start.
Next, two plump and bronzed empanadas sprinkled with sea salt hit the table served with a lemon cheek and a side of relish, and we’re taken back to walking the streets of Buenos Aires and munching on these delicious bad boys circa 2018. But instead of rich beef, Niland’s ones are bursting with an incredible saltbush filling loaded with cumin, garlic and salty anchovy. Paired with the sweet capsicum and coriander relish and a squeeze of acidity from the lemon, they are giving Argentina’s numbers a run for their money.
A pretty plate of bonito comes out looking like a lilac-coloured hibiscus. Darker and oiler than most fish, the bonito’s skin is lightly charred by coals on one side, giving each slice a subtle lick of smoky flavour. Dressed with a umami-rich sauce made from the bonito’s bones and steeped in soy sauce, and then dotted with salty capers, it’s a brilliant dish and we scoop up every last bit.
Meanwhile, a succulent and tender fillet of blue-eye trevalla is hidden underneath crisp golden potatoes layered on top of each other like perfect fish scales. We pick up the potato scale in one hand and take a bite. It tastes like the super crunchy morsels you’d find at the bottom of your tub of hot chips. Pops of charred and creamed corn add sweetness, and salsa macha made from dried chillies kicks it into gear. To drink, we pair it with the Wheeler Willow Lake Chardonnay, which is creamy and has slight notes of nectarine.
A chorizo sausage made from tuna, Murray cod trimmings and cured Murray cod fat is glistening; served curled up and accompanied by a bright red salsa. The meat is rich, garlicky and spiced and does an excellent job of proving you don’t need red meat to make sausages. All that’s needed is some more bread to mop up the glorious oily sauce.
A side of charred Brussels sprouts dressed in a buttery and sweet mustard sauce with rings of shallots is enough to convince any sprout denier that they are worth another shot, though at this point we think we may (definitely) have exceeded our daily intake of fat. Alas, a verjuice apple tart with vanilla ice cream will have to wait until next time.
Just like the couple’s other venues, the décor at Petermen has been designed by Julie. Floor-length curtains the colour of sand soften the space and inside is decked out with wooden furniture and the kind of chairs your stylish friends have. Luminescent moon-like lights hang from the roof, there’s a sleek bar to the left, and bull kelp seaweed hangs like bats behind the chefs. It’s a beautiful and polished space, though perhaps a touch beige if not for the spectacular rainbow original artworks by Australian artist Ken Done. You can’t help but feel happy when looking at them.
Renowned around the world for being a pioneer of the fin-to-tail seafood movement, Niland has long been championing the use of the whole fish. Not only for economical reasons, but for sustainable ones, too. Why use one fillet of fish when you can enjoy the whole thing? The meat world has known this for much longer, but thankfully the ocean world is starting to catch up, and it’s largely thanks to Niland.
Whether it’s Saint Peter’s fish-eye ice cream (trust us, it works), the legendary yellowfin tuna cheeseburger at Charcoal Fish that rivals Macca's creations, and now Petermen’s exceptional scotch egg, Niland has revolutionised the way we think about – and eat – seafood, allowing us to fall deeper in love with creatures of the sea. And there is nothing fishy about that.