Alrighty then, readers! After yet another achingly long hiatus, I'm back. This time, I haven't been jetsetting the world enjoying endless days of sun, hotels, wine and food. I've been doing the exact opposite of holidaying which is facing reality and transitioning to an 'official adult'. The lack of blog entries can be blamed on the fact that I haven't had internet until this week, after moving into my new home just over a month ago. Honestly, at this point I'm so used to things not working out smoothly that I hardly batted an eyelid. Aside from the usual stresses of relocation, I've also started a new job and adopted a puppy (my 'son' Odin, a keeshond) so unfortunately for fans of this blog and for my tastebuds, dining out has taken a backseat.
Marc and I had the rare dinner together last week. It's an oddity for us because we work on different time schedules. I've usually left for work before he's even awake and I tend to be asleep by the time he's home. I can't remember exactly what day of the week it was but we both hapened to be awake and hungry at the same time and I nominated Swampdog for an easy and nearby dinner option.
It was approaching lateness for a weeknight at just before 9pm so when we got to Swampdog, parking wasn't at all an issue. I don't know what the situation is like at the dinner peak though because there doesn't appear to be many car spots nearby. There are indoor seats but it's that time of the year where outdoor seating is perfect in the evening and we decided to take advantage of that.
I have been wanting to try Swampdog for a LONG time. A bit of background history here: I attended highschool at Brisbane SHS just around the corner. I used to walk past the place that Swampdog is to get to the bus stop every afternoon. It's changed a lot since I was a student (geez that makes me feel old) but the element of nostalgia is still there. I have this love/hate relationship with junk food. I try to eat clean so I get grossed out by the idea of it MOST of the time but on the other hand, well done chips or a perfect burger are never something to be looked down upon. My current benchmark of perfection in fish and chips is A Salt and Battery in St Lucia. I pictured Swampdog to be just as good as that but with more of a gourmet spin.
The menu was better than I imagined. Forget plain 'battered, crumbed or grilled'. The seafood dishes sound like they've been ripped straighted out of a hatted restaurant menu but it throws you because the venue is so relaxed. Marc and I stared for a while. I wasn't even hungry at that point (I may have already had a cheeky early dinner that night; note what I said earlier about our clashing day schedules) but I resolved to order something because everything sounded delicious.
We ended up getting two main-sized items to share. Marc chose a special from the blackboard and I went for the salt and pepper squid with chips.
Our table outside was in fact, a door. Complete with a handle. Kooky. It was a nice spot for street watching. I am now a West End citizen and still, I don't tire of people-watching in my new hood. What would the world be if we were all made the same...
Anyhow, our food arrived relatively quickly (perhaps influenced by the fact that we were the only customers at that point in the evening). The food looked amazing. My salt and pepper squid was about as aesthetic as battered bits of globby sea creatures can look on a plate, but Marc's whole fish was a work of art.
Salt and pepper squid - with preserved lemon aioli and chips
Looks aside, mine was much easier to eat, as I readily gloated on later in my lazy glory. The juicy morsels of soft squid tasted fresh and tender, with a light batter enhanced by aromatic black sesame. I loved the creamy and rich preserved lemon aioli that could've been a meal on its own. I loved the gold, perfectly cooked chunky chips. I loved all of it together. Need I say more??
Whole red spot emperor - with ginger and eschallot relish and crispy noodles
Marc's special of the day was the whole red spot emperor with crispy noodles. I don't know anything about actual species of fish, besides the fact that a red spot emperor fried whole looks like that (refer to photo, please). As I praised earlier, this dish would have easily been at home at a fancy Asian restaurant. In fact, Marc and I attended a cooking class at Spirit House and we partook in the deep frying of a whole fish that was served like this, albeit on a larger scale. I'm usually the idiot who chooses the grilled option at fish and chips restaurants and suffers food envy watching all my friends cut into their battered/crumbed versions of my fish. I don't imagine that being a problem at Swampdog.
Marc had the task of actually pulling it apart to access the flesh though and by 'task' I mean, slightlier more difficult job than just picking up and plopping in mouth (which is all I had to do). The fish was cooked to perfection and came away from its bone with the lightest prying. The Aisan-inspired noodle salad had a nicely balanced flavour too.
It's not difficult to see that I loved our meal at Swampdog. Is it because I've become repressed and deprived? I doubt it. The food was genuinely fresh, interesting and tasty. I liked the casual vibe of the place. This is confident bistro-level dishes disguised as a fast food fish and chip store and with more acceptable prices to boot. I'm so glad that this is a new local venue for me.