It needn’t be at the sea to be sea-fresh
You may not be able to see or smell the ocean, but eating fish in landlocked Jo’burg certainly meets seaside standards – whether you want to lighten your bank account with a sumptuous seafood platter or tuck into old-fashioned fish and chips.
Johannesburg consumers may not get the line fish available to their coastal cousins but the city does receive seafood deliveries from around southern Africa and further afield, almost on a daily basis.
Says well-known food consultant and chef Yvonne Short: “All retailers across the country basically have access to the same ranges because they have the same suppliers. Obviously, if you reside at the coast, it is easier to buy the catch of the day from local fish shops and from the harbours because commercial line fish from coastal areas is only sold locally.”
Are there specific days to buy fish? “Suppliers deliver on different days so talk to the retailer you are buying your fish from. Many Cape Town suppliers deliver to Johannesburg on a Sunday night and their produce is in stores on Monday or Tuesday. Other suppliers from Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth send the catch up on Tuesdays while fish from Mozambique arrives on Thursday. Salmon from Denmark or Norway is flown in on a Sunday and Thursday.”
Kirsten Jooste, who started off as an independent agent in the fish industry, bought La Marina Foods in 1995. It is now one of Joburg’s leading fish suppliers and also has an on-site deli and eatery at its industrial outlet.
“We rotate and receive fish multiple times throughout the week to ensure freshness year-round. So any day is a good day to buy fish,” she explains.
She doesn’t believe a specific region in the country gets better fish. For her its more about who is willing to go the extra mile to ensure sustainable seafood is sourced, stored and promoted correctly into the market.
“In Johannesburg, we don’t always have first take on line-caught fish but we have realised farmed fish is the future to ensure our oceans aren’t depleted. As a supplier, we will not stand by and contribute to this depletion. We stand firm on all aspects of food distribution and insist that fish should come from a reputable supplier, be sustainable and follow a correct paper trail to ensure full traceability,” she says.
“At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility, as consumers and sellers, to educate ourselves and ensure we don’t contribute to destroying our oceans so that future generations can benefit and learn from our mistakes.”
So how do consumers ensure that they are not buying or eating illegal and non-sustainable fish?
Says Short: “Most of the major retailers have signed up with the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and support it. Other fish shops may stock red-listed (do not eat) fish because they buy a consignment from various vessels not knowing everything that was in the catch. You can check the status of fish you are buying or ordering from a restaurant on the SASSI app which you can download on your mobile.”
Some Daily Maverick favourite fishy places in Johannesburg:
The original Fishmonger – run by Pedro da Costa – has been in Illovo for more than 22 years and is renowned far and wide for its excellent seafood. Masterchef UK judge John Torode celebrated his 50th birthday there with fellow chefs and cooks Reza Mahammad and Tom Parker-Bowles and the food was as good as the party. The day’s fresh fish, such as king prawns, langoustines and farmed line fish, are brought to the table to help you decide just what to order. You can go big, if your bank balance can handle it, with platters teaming with a variety of shellfish, calamari and white fish, half rice/half chips and a selection of butter-based sauces. There are also a number of dishes that reflect Da Costa’s Portuguese background such as bacalhau and Beira prawns in peri peri, beer and garlic as well as a substantial sushi menu. The seabass grilled with lemon butter sauce is sublime in its simplicity. Da Costa observes the SASSI list, vets his suppliers and ensures that the fish on his menu come from reputable farms.
Thrupps Centre, 204 Oxford Rd, Illovo. Tel: 011 268 0067
George Sinovich started The Codfather way back in 1992 and this upmarket establishment is still going strong, although décor and menus have been updated over the years. This is not a restaurant stuck in a time warp. It’s famous for its fish counter where patrons go and choose what they want, have it weighed and then cooked the way they want it. The chargrilled blackened octopus is delicious and they are also known for their sushi.
3 Stan Rd, Morningside. Tel: +27 010 020 0286
The Fisherman’s Plate
The Fisherman’s Plate offers exceptional value for money and delicious food in unpretentious surroundings – think naked fluorescent lights and wobbly tables with plastic cloths. If seafood is the queen here then crab is the king. Owner Kevin Hsu is famous for cooking these crustaceans whether it is black pepper-, chilli- or Malaysian-style with coconut milk.
18 Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene, Bruma Tel: 011 622 0480
La Marina Foods
You can buy your fish and other specialist goodies at this culinary treasure trove but there’s also a small eatery that serves some of the best sushi and calamari in town. The platters are delicious and reasonably priced with a choice of specialist seafood and shellfish.
7 Platinum Dr, Longmeadow, North Business Park, Lethabong. Tel: 011 608 3277
The Fisherman’s Deli imports salmon from all over the world including airfresh* salmon from Norway which arrives twice a week and premium farmed Scottish salmon. (*This is the term they use for sushi grade salmon that has never been frozen.) It has an outlet in Dunkeld West as well as a factory shop, where you can sit and eat, that serves some of the city’s best fresh fish, calamari and prawns with moreish crispy chips. The fish will put a smile on your face and so will the prices with calamari and fried hake at under R60.
158 Northlands Business Park, 29 Newmarket Road, Northriding. Tel: 011 251 8334/43
The Fish Hook
It might be a takeaway hole-in-the-wall establishment but owner Welman Son is famous for his hake and chips, with loyal patrons declaring that it’s better than anything they’ve had in Cape Town or Durban. Undo the paper-wrapped fish and chips, inhale, break off some crispy batter, taste the fresh and fleshy fish and you’ll see why there are often queues outside this little gem. It might also be where the expression “cheap as chips” comes from.
Shop 4, Darrenwood Centre, corner First Ave and Republic Rd, Darrenwood. Tel: 011 888 8249
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