In Short: If you have only one seafood dining experience, be sure to have Saint Peter at the very top of the list. Josh Niland’s little space on Oxford Street is exciting with dishes that pay respect to the ingredient and champions it in ways few others can at the moment. Our tip, oysters and the pikelets with sea urchin. A brunch and dinner menu means that you should come back at least twice.
Every once in a while a seafood restaurant comes along that creates excitement amongst foodies and those of us who appreciate the preparation of the ‘fruits of the sea’ by expert hands with amazing vision. In the noughties, that restaurant was Fish Face in Darlinghurst. While it was a hole in a wall, I had the definitive seafood experience at Steve Hodge’s restaurant and still recall the clearest, and most compelling consommé I have had to date. At Fish Face a young Josh Niland learned his craft with Australia’s amazing seafood produce. Now, his restaurant Saint Peter in Darlinghurst in 2018 is the most exciting seafood restaurant in the city, and most probably in the country. Dining at Saint Peter had been the experience I had been looking forward all year and it definitely lived up to the heady expectations.
As you walk down to Oxford Street you would be forgiven for walking straight past Saint Peter. It’s unassuming without the glitz or glamour that other 2 hatted restaurants may strive for. Again, sitting inside, it’s humble, comforting and not intimidating to those of us who are not exactly seasoned fine diners. Adding to that comfort, I swear someone had hacked my iPhone because the soundtrack features a throwback to the 80s with all my favourite tracks playing. It’s a long vertical room with exposed brick walls on either side. A smart casual restaurant with the excellence coming in from the kitchen.
To start of lunch we sampled 10 oysters. One of the varieties was a Petit Clair Rock Oyster. They are true to their name, a tiny shell housed delicate morsels that were creamy and sweet. For oyster lovers, this is just an outstanding specimen! From petit to a noticeably larger 7 year old Wapengo Rock Oysters which combines a creamy, buttery flavour with a delectable salty hit and subtle mineral taste. The quality of the oyster can be traced to the pristine waters of southern coast on NSW where these oysters grow. We loved the Angasi at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, but my favourite oysters have to go to these pair of rock oysters.
While we enjoyed oyster bliss, litte Sammi’s eyes were drawn to the only word on the menu she was familiar with, and that menu item which contained the word sausage was going to be her choice. The Tin Can Bay Bar Cod Sausage and BBQ Onion Sandwich presents as a neat little sandwich with soft white bread, perfectly trimmed of its crust and chunky sausages of fish with a ketchup and the golden onions. I was able to get a taste before Sammi attacked it and it had that unmistakable charred bbq flavour of sausage but not far behind, there’s a beautiful mild fishy flavour. The flesh is firm, yet moist. Onions and sauce added a sweet and tangy dimension to the sandwich.
For my main, I couldn’t go past the Bay of Fires Sea Urchin and Pikelets just for the intrigue. Sea urchins are definite delicacy and at Saint Peter it’s presented fresh with a Saint Peter’s take on tartare, capers and herbs. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser and the tables surrounding me proceeded to order the same dish, after seeing it sitting on the table as I was snapping away. The sweet briny flavour of the sea urchin paired beautifully with the tartare. The pikelets were perfect little discs of fluffiness. A rare treat that was definitely memorable.
From the sophisticated pikelets to the Bermagui Mirror Dory Taramsalata Donut which were a playful little offering. Biting into it and there’s no mistaking it’s a donut. I enjoyed the pillowy, comforting dough, which gives way to the creamy taramasalata. There’s a sweet yet salty flavour of the dory that comes through. It’s inventive, delicious and fun!
To cleanse the palate, I had the striking salad of Blood Orange, Ricotta and Mint Leaf Oil. There’s the brilliance of the crimson of the blood orange with it’s sweet yet acidic flavour. Tempering it, is the ricotta with it’s mild flavour and creamy texture. I thought the real winner of this salad was the mint leaf oil which really gave the dish a fragrant, fresh injection of flavour.
A celestial conclusion was the Lemon Tart. I admired the restraint in the plating. A perfectly slice of the lemon tart, partnered by a dollop of cream. Minimalist, but it’s all in the eating. It was zesty yet sweet. The shortest of crusts with a biscuit like texture and crunch and a filling that has a jelly like wobble. It epitomises the experience at Saint Peter. Excellence yet without blaring trumpets and spurning the need to make every dish instagram worthy.
Saint Peter surprised and delighted. If you do dine during the day on the weekends, you will experience a brunch menu like we did. It means then a second visit is a must to sample the menu when sun goes down. The brunch menu shows innovation, technique, and delivers amazing flavours and a memorable dining experience. I can only imagine the dinner menu going one up.