The words “fish market” generally conjure up images (and smells) of a manic waterside establishment with frantic, rough, hardened spruikers with chipped teeth yelling and screaming and tossing fish about: weighing them, scaling them and bagging them up to anyone with an open wallet. I’ve been to dozens of such places around the world, mainly in SE Asia, India and Central America where freshly-caught fish and their ilk are flopped over tile plinths with blood oozing from hook wounds and clouds of flies buzzing about.
When it comes to our fish market here in Sydney, things look and sound significantly different. What we have is a well-organised group of independant wholesalers selling hundreds of types of seafood to the public, retailers and restaurateurs alike.
The varieties of fish, crustacean’s and mollusc’s available are pretty impressive and are neatly arranged on beds of crushed ice and the only things buzzing around them are the enormous numbers of tourists and the odd local.
Nobody cares about it being Australia’s only working fish market or the second largest in the world. What people do care about is picking up some fresh seafood to take home or just choose something cooked from the many outlets, plonk at an indoor table or out on the bayside boardwalk and lap up the lifestyle we locals sometimes take for granted.
Out-of-towners seem to love the massive platters piled high with all things deep fried: chips, calamari, fish, crab sticks, with a side of lobster mornay or cocktail abalone. Personally, when I seldom make it to the markets with an interstate or overseas guest I prefer to pick up a tray or two of freshly-shucked oysters, cooked king prawns and a bottle of chilled wine from the bottle shop. Forget the boardwalk and hoards of people and cross the street and sit in Wentworth Park under the massive trees on a blanket. No crowds and no surprise seagull ‘sauce’ landing on your oysters.
If you really want to settle in for the day there’s cake to be bought at the bakery, cheese and olives from Blackwattle Deli and chocolate-dipped strawberries from the fruit shop.