‘Devastated’: Top Sydney chef permanently shuts two restaurants

Celebrated Sydney chef Josh Niland has announced two of his beloved Eastern Suburbs eateries will permanently close their doors after this Sunday, March 31.

Mr Niland – who has been lauded by his contemporaries and diners alike for his waste-free and innovative approach to cooking with seafood – will shutter Rose Bay’s Charcoal Fish and Paddington’s Fish Butchery at the end of the Easter long weekend.

At Charcoal Fish, which opened in 2021, the protein is treated in much the same way a charcoal chicken shop treats its poultry, and introduced diners to dishes like the yellowfin tuna cheeseburger. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food reports there had been “recent rumblings” the business would vacate its site on the busy New South Head Road.

A spokesman for Mr Niland blamed “the variable seasonality of that location”, which sits back from the harbour.

As for Fish Butchery – a fish and chip shop a few doors down from Mr Niland’s two-hatted restaurant, Saint Peter, on Paddington’s bustling Oxford Street – its closure comes almost six years to the day since its opening in April 2018.

A spokesman for the 35-year-old and his wife, Julie, a fellow chef, said the relocation of Saint Peter to the nearby Grand National Hotel tied in with the decision to close down the business, which also sells fresh seafood, ready meals and kitchen tools.

“The relocation of Saint Peter into a bigger restaurant and kitchen has allowed for more space, and all whole fish butchery will now be carried out in the kitchen and at Fish Butchery Waterloo (which remains open to the public on weekends),” they said.

“The Waterloo site is more suited to purpose and will continue to supply whole fish butchery to both the larger Saint Peter and Petermen (St Leonards) restaurants.

“Staff from both venues will be incorporated into existing businesses where possible, and any outstanding Charcoal Fish vouchers will be redirected to other venues.”

Posts on the respective Instagram accounts of both Fish Butchery and Charcoal Fish confirm they’ll continue operating through the weekend.

Fans of the ventures have expressed their devastation at the news, commenting on Good Food’s announcement that it “hurts so bad”.

“Devastating. One of Sydney’s best,” one diner wrote.

While another said: “Charcoal fish is amazing! Sorry to hear this.”

“Super sad news,” a third commented.

“This is so upsetting. I’ve followed these two for such a long time now.”

It’s been a big few years for the Nilands – in 2020, Mr Niland became the first Australian to win the prestigious James Beard award, often referred to as the Oscars of food.

In the last 12 months alone, the couple have opened seafood bistro Petermen and their first international venture, “seafood steakhouse” Fysh, in Singapore – all of which reflect their “whole fish” philosophy.

“I received my first invoice for fish and it cost a fortune,” Mr Niland recalled to Vogue Australia last October, of the moment he and Julie opened Saint Peter in 2016.

“And there’s the chef part of your brain which is saying that half of what you’ve just purchased is going to go in the bin, because there’s not a lot to do with everything else that comes from a fish.”

Following a conversation with his accountant, however, he was forced to figure out how to streamline spending.

“There were already ideas in my head around trying to interpret fish more like meat, but it became very literal. It was then looking at the world of meat butchery and trying to push that into the world of fish,” he said, adding the recognition Saint Peter received for its creative efforts cemented his gill-to-fin approach.

“That helped carve out the lane we saw ourselves in. Then we really leaned into that, and that’s been the trajectory of the past seven years.”

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