362 Oxford St
Paddington, NSW 2021
Doctoring in NSW may not pay a whole lot, but it certainly pays more than not working at all. And though it may not ever be enough to buy me a house, it is enough to finally fund the leisurely lunch at Saint Peter that I’ve been pining after for so long. If seafood in every iteration is what you want, then seafood in every iteration is what you’ll get here, and served with infinitely more panache than you’d expect the tiny open kitchen to be able to deliver. It may be fine dining, but there is an undoubtedly relaxed feel to it that makes it just dandy for any occasion.
Rating: 15.5/20 – all pizzaz, no pretention.
Good to know: a la carte at lunch, set menu at dinner
Must order: coal trout head; don’t be squeamish, it’s amazing stuff.
Call me a sucker, but I had to see what the Wild Kingfish Mortadella ($18) is all about. And colour me boggled because this tastes exactly like pork, even down to the little bits of fat peppering the cured meat. It is classic little starter, accompanied by toffee-gold shards of sourdough crouton, and a couple of unfathomably plump Gordal olives.
The charcoal grill at Saint Peter gets a good workout with the current menu, and the pairing of Charcoal Padron Peppers & John Dory Taramasalata ($20) is simple yet delicious, the intensely umami dip rounded out by the deeply smoky yet sweet peppers.
And to mop up the rest of the taramasalata? A plate of Bread with Yoghurt Butter ($5), the latter which struck such a pleasing balance between richness and lightness that I ended up eating it straight off my knife.
The Charcoal Bowen Coral Trout Head ($34) – splayed open across the grill, eyes and teeth and all – would make vegans all over cry, but frankly I think it’s a formidably clever bit of head-to-tail eating. And the flavour? Utterly divine. The sugar glaze paints the buttery flesh with a deep, caramelised sweetness, combining hypnotically with the charcoal smoke. They even encourage you to use your hands because as they put it, there are lots of delicious bits in the face folds. And that is nothing but the truth; all the different fatty and chewy and creamy bits take on the glaze in a slightly different way, becoming a complete riot of flavours and textures. This ain’t the fish head you were forced to eat by your Asian relatives growing up. Hate to break it to ya grandma, but no 4-year-old wants to suck the eyeballs out of the steamed fish, no matter how smart it apparently makes you.
If you can’t get over your childhood trauma however, the Mooloolaba Swordfish Chop ($50) might be a safer way to go. And that’s not just a name; it is genuinely cooked and served like you would a pork chop. The heartier fish bears up well under the smoky heat of the charcoal, and the end result is a very meaty experience, with leaner, firmer sections juxtaposing against the fattier parts of the belly. The Sunday roast illusion is complete with a rich fish bone gravy, burnt apple puree, and an utterly scrumptious bit of purple wombok, steamed, smoked, and rolled into an umami-laden parcel.
Compared to the savouries, the sweets are distinctly underwhelming, though of course perfectly nice of their own accord. The Ginger & Demerara Sugar Cake ($18) was a surprisingly tiny, but rather elegant riff on spiced cake with custard/ice cream, though I’m not sure I’ll be paying that much for 3 mouthfuls of sweets again in a hurry.
Drinks however, are very much worth the investment. They’ve a small but very well curated selection of non-alcoholic cocktails, including a No-Groni ($16) that tastes just like the real thing, rather than some kind of citrus-based soda, and a Gin & Tonic ($14) that is all refreshment and no wooziness.