My favourite fishmonger in Singapore, Greenwood Fish Market, is celebrating 10 years of trading, which may not seem a long time if you come from a generation’s old Cornwall fishing family but surviving a decade in hyper-competitive Singapore is equivalent to a lifetime.
Greenwood Fish Market is actually more than a retail fish shop, indeed they serve up the best Fish n Chips in Singapore; almost as good as the “Best Fish n Chips in the World”, according to my daughter, and trust me, she is an expert on this.
They also have a bustling bistro, which was initially located out the back of the retail shop when I first started going there, a user-friendly cosy, lived in sort of space and so popular getting a table usually meant getting there early, to beat the local Singaporeans who tend to dine late.
They then took over the corner shop a few doors down; a completely different, bright open-plan space with considerably more tables and subsequently more bistro buzz to it. There’s no doubt it was a good move with the place pretty much full lunch and dinner, 7 days a week, and spilling over to an outdoor area as well as the original bistro space when really busy.
It is the quintessential ‘local’ bistro; user-friendly with familiar staff—that is the staff are have all been there long-term and know the clientele well—which is becoming a difficult thing to achieve these days with an acute shortage of hospitality staff in Singapore. Moreover, it’s a vitally important facet for regular diners who don’t want to be treated like strangers when they turn up and very much a part of the comfort-zone routine.
I should point out, when I use the term local, I don’t want to infer local Singaporean cuisine, as the Greenwood Fish Bistro approach is very much western-style of cooking fish and seafood with little of the ambiguous black bean or ginger and shallot sauce here. Simply pan-fried or grilled is the order of the day with an unpretentious approach to cooking seafood to get the most out of its naturally inherent flavours and textures.
Likewise you will not find the live caught farmed fish that the Cantonese restaurants obsess with here. Greenwood Fish Market specializes in fresh cold-water fish that they import directly and air-freight from New Zealand, South Australia and Canada with fish such as Wild Sockeye Salmon, Tasmanian Ocean Trout, John Dory, Snapper, Pink Snapper, Hapuka, Bass, Lemon Sole, Orange Roughy, Ling Cod, Yellowfin Tuna, Swordfish, Marlin, Kingfish and Striped Bass, Cod and the occasional Halibut from the Atlantic Coast.
They also import live shellfish (Oysters, Clams, Mussels, Scallops) from New Zealand, Australia, Alaska and Canada; freshly shucked oysters are a big feature and depending on the time of year, as they change sources/countries following the best of the winter seasons, you might be treated to wonderful Fanny Bay Oysters from British Columbia or the legendary Bluff Oysters from New Zealand.
Boston Bay Lobster are flown in weekly and a popular indulgence; not to take anything away from a more humble bowl of New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels Marinière…there’s always something for everyone and the emphasis is on piping fresh and seasonal.
This unpretentiousness in cooking and homely feel is underpinned by their amiable chef, Alan Lee, whose talents, hard work and dedication to quality are most commendable. As I wrote recently in an article on my ‘Best Meal of the Year 2013’ at Martin Bosley’s in Wellington, New Zealand, I have always had the greatest respect for chef’s specializing in fish, which can be so unforgiving in the cooking; not only do they need to have a rigorous and meticulous approach to sourcing and handling their produce, but also an exacting precision and rigid compulsiveness in cooking it—often by the simplest of techniques and presentation—which invariably does not engender the kudos it should.
As humble as Chef Lee and the team at Greenwood Fish Market are, and the explicit informality of the bistro, they deserve far more recognition and personally, I think they are achieving a much higher standard than many fully fledged restaurants and at far more reasonable prices. Clearly very fresh, high-quality seafood is the key and whilst top-draw seafood is never cheap, with direct importing their prices are very fair.
Admittedly, I takeout more than I eat in the bistro; their excellent deep-fried snapper and chips a regular for us. We pick up fresh fish once, sometimes twice a week. If available, I always go for John Dory, the king of all fish with a wonderfully pure white, flaky texture. Equally, I am thoroughly impressed with Tasmanian Ocean Trout which has a most alluring soft orange colour with strips of white fat and a milder, sort of sweeter flavour than say Norwegian Salmon.
Which reminds me, I must bring up with Chef Lee, the brilliant New Zealand ‘Ora’ King Salmon from the Marlborough Sounds, www.orakingsalmon.com not dissimilar in its subtle flavour although more towards the familiar pink colour. These are both perfect fish for the meat eater and pair wonderfully with a lighter pinot noir.
Apart from their day-to-day fish retail, Greenwood Fish Market also prepare seafood platters, sashimi platters, shucked oysters and prepare fish and marinate for BBQ’s, and they have a delivery service, all perfect for that next party or dinner you are holding.
Whilst their location in the Greenwood shopping strip is obviously a good catchment area for districts 9 and 10, I would not hesitate to travel across town to source my fish here, it’s definitely worth the effort, like all good food foraging, you simply have to go that extra mile to source the good stuff.
And a smart move is to be on Chef Lee’s SMS feeds (91851420), with regular updates on the catch and arrival times www.fishshop.com.sg