Fishbank’s Boston Bay Mussels with Cider, Peas and Smoked Bacon

T Australia sat down with Fishbank’s Head Chef Tony Carroll to talk about growing up in Liverpool, offal as a gourmet choice and the seafood he’s most excited about right now.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Fishbank AdelaideTony Carroll. Photography courtesy Fishbank.

From a quick dinner before the footy through to oysters and Champagne after a show, Fishbank in Adelaide’s CBD has fast become a restaurant somehow ready for any occasion. Serving fresh, sustainably-sourced Australian seafood, the restaurant recently took out “Best Seafood Restaurant” in the South Australian Hostplus Awards for Excellence. All fish is sent whole to the restaurant, where it is then prepared in a “fin to scale” approach – using every part of the fish.

We sat down with Fishbank’s Head Chef Tony Carroll to find out what’s inspiring him at the moment, how he unwinds after service, and where he enjoys dining on his days off.

Fishbank Adelaide
Tony Carroll plating up in the Fishbank kitchen. Photography courtesy Fishbank.
Fishbank Adelaide
Tony Carroll. Photography courtesy Fishbank.

On becoming a chef…

Unfortunately, I don’t have a romantic story about growing up baking cakes with my Mum or picking fruit with Nonno from his garden. I grew up on a council estate in Liverpool in northern England – food was more about substance than gourmet treats. Having said that, every night was a home cooked meal. I think that’s where I developed my taste for offal – lamb’s heart, ox tongue, liver, and brains were all staples in the Carroll household, because they were cheap. It makes me laugh, as all are now expensive and seen as gourmet.

By chance, I fell into the hospitality industry and then fell in love with cooking and food, and the energy and atmosphere of a busy kitchen. I haven’t looked back since.

On life before Fishbank…

Before working at Fishbank, I ran my own business for 18 years. A small tin shed set up on the river, we served produce-driven modern Australian food in a casual but professional environment. It taught me a lot of lessons in life – it was a lot of hard work but a great experience.

On what drives him each day…

I still really enjoy cooking, I think the industry has massive challenges now and they can be incredibly frustrating, but at the heart of the job is still cooking, and I love it!

On unwinding after service…

I usually go for a walk after service, either through the city after work, or on the beach when I get home, then it’s a hot shower and cold beer… sometimes at the same time.

Fishbank Adelaide
Fishbank is located in Adelaide's CBD. Photography courtesy Fishbank.

On what he’s enjoying experimenting with…

Fishbank is predominately a seafood restaurant. The seafood industry is so much more varied and seasonal than the meat industry, so there is always an abundance of new and unusual things to work with. With the weather being so cold right now, I am loving the quality of the oysters; they’re big, fat and juicy. The Coffin Bay vongole season has just started, and they are amazing, and we’re really excited about our new relationship with a local fisherman producing Razor Fish from Streaky Bay.

On cooking at home…

I very rarely cook at home, usually only when friends and family come over, and I’ll cook something simple and communal like a paella or a slow cooked lamb shoulder. I do the family meal on Mondays. My kids love Asian food, like satays, stir fries and curries, although nothing too spicy… a real predicament because I love my chilli!

On what he’s most excited about at the moment…

I’ve been in this industry for quite a few years now. I get really excited seeing the young chefs who have passed through my kitchen and trusted me with their training, kick on and mature into fine chefs developing their own style of cooking and vision.

On the chefs who inspire him…

Adelaide is blessed with a great, vibrant dining scene at the moment. Recently I have had great meals at Anchovy Bandit, Leigh Street Wine Room, The Scenic Hotel and Arkhe to name a few. I think Jin Choi at Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant in the Adelaide Hills, and Dan Moss at Terroir Auburn are doing a great job also.

Fishbank’s Boston Bay Mussels with Cider, Peas and Smoked Bacon

Serves 4 | Recipe by Tony Carroll

1kg mussels
1 baby cos lettuce, shredded
100g peas
150g smoked bacon
200ml fish stock
120ml dry cider
60g garlic butter
Chopped parsley

Combine mussels, fish stock and half of the cider in a hot pan. Cover with lid and shake for approximately 4 minutes or until mussels pop open. Strain and reserve the liquid for later use.

Return the saucepan to heat and gently fry the bacon for 2 minutes. Add remaining cider and simmer to reduce by half. Add reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer.

Whisk in the garlic butter then add the lettuce and peas. Simmer for 1 minute. Stir in Mussels and chopped parsley, and serve immediately.