Sustainable seafood restaurant Arthur’s is putting the hip-hop in chip shop.
Jason Wright didn’t plan to open a restaurant in Australia. Formerly an executive chef, hospitality consultant, restaurant and hotel owner in the United Kingdom, the Scottish-born chef was looking for a reprieve from the grind when he decided to venture to Sydney.
“I was just going to peel carrots in a kitchen for a year and have fun,” he says.
His holiday plans, however, didn’t quite pan out. A month later, he was in Australia and head chef at Kittyhawk. “I am who I have always been,” he says. “I open restaurants and I try to change dining experiences.”
Now, he’s aiming to do just that at Arthur’s in Manly. Jason has transformed the Northern Beaches venue – formerly a surf shop and cafe – into a sustainable seafood restaurant, complete with beats and craft beer. Jason wants to help the oceans, educate diners on sustainable fishing practices, and serve only seafood that’s either sustainably farmed or MSC certified.
Jason spotted the venue while living in a cottage opposite it. When an idea began to brew, he decided to make an offer. Two months later, the restaurant is in full swing.
There’s a nod to the nautical throughout the space, but not enough to feel kitschy. Ropes dangle down to an eight-seater bar, there’s a pair of oars leaning in one corner, and a boat diorama – made entirely of matchsticks – functions as a to-scale replica of the Endeavour. Arthur Phillip – the restaurant’s namesake, who “discovered Manly and named it so” – is immortalised in a painting on the back wall. There’s a ‘captain’s library’ on the way to the bathroom, while menus sit as messages in table-bound bottles.
“I wanted to take a fish-and-chip shop and a restaurant and smash them together,” says Jason. “I wanted it to be a reflection of who I am: a bit quirky and a bit out there.”
Jason’s dishes tackle three goals: to champion seafood; balance sweetness with savoury, oceanic notes, and to make the most of Australian produce.
Oysters are shucked to order and sourced from Signature Oysters, who provide at least six varieties of oysters at any time. Dishes are designed to share: fat, smooth scallops paired with jalapeno poppers atop a smoked corn puree are a great place to start. On another plate, four macadamia-crusted prawns are placed as compass points, directing eaters through freeze-dried lychees, chunks of macadamia, artichoke puree and shards of pumpkin meringue. In the sea salad, salty sea vegetables and ribbons of cucumber mingle with pine nuts and deep-fried capers, resulting in a very moreish, beer-friendly bite.
Jason rotates tinnies – and only tinnies – whenever he feels like it. He sells them all at the same price: $10. “When I run out of a beer, I [sell] another one that’s super crazy,” he says of the beer menu, which champions local and international craft brewers.
The restaurant, he says, is the result of his “constant creativity … and need to always be doing something different”.
Putting the hip-hop in chip shop, Arthur’s Oysters & Seafood is serving up seafood with sustainability in mind.