Could sustainable seafood and poke restaurant Salmon & Bear be expanding?

Two years since it first opened in Sydney, Salmon & Bear has been a true gift for lovers of high-quality, accessible and sustainable seafood. Now with two locations, Zetland and Newtown, the casual seafood eatery is well-placed to complement the rise of more health-conscious dining in Sydney, as well as food trends like the now ubiquitous Poke, a trend they started championing two years ago, with them still serving some of the best Hawaiian style sushi salad bowls around.

Inside the Newtown store

“At first we saw ourselves filling a gap in the market for a QSR [Quick Service Restaurant] fish concept similar to a Ribs & Burgers or a Zeus Greek Street, but with fish as the hero produce”, said Operations Manager Joe Ward, who co-owns and founded the business alongside Joel Katz and renowned Red Lantern Chef Mark Jensen. “As we evolved we realised fish dining will always be a step up from that, which leaves us in a pretty unique dining category. We offer restaurant quality fish dining with service to match, but in a casual dining environment.”

Salmon & Bear prefer the old school method of grilling their fish over coal

Basing their menu around a special imported Mibrasa chacoal over from Spain, Salmon & Bear keep it traditional with a dedication to grilling their fish over coal. This means that the intense heat of the oven helps crisp the fish skin to perfection while leaving the flesh moist and tender; almost poached inside. This method has allowed for a diverse menu with plenty of options, some of the top choices being the Salmon “Bearger” with fresh Ora King Salmon (one of their primary ingredients across the board), McClure’s pickles, salsa verde and sriracha; Salt & Pepper Calamari Tacos; all six of the different types of Poke (especially the Ora King Salmon, Hiramasa Kingfish or Miso Eggplant bowls); classic Fish & Chips; and – their most popular – The Big Grizzly, which is priced at $32.95 for your choice of fish, choice of sauce, and choice of two sides.

It sure seems as if Salmon & Bear are destined to grow as a brand, with plans to expand within the next five years. “We see ourselves as the perfect neighbourhood restaurant where people dine more than once a week”, said Ward. “We are all based in the Eastern suburbs so that may be the next logical [expansion] but we are looking all over Sydney and even to other major cities like Melbourne and Brisbane”.

With their menu changing twice a year – once in Winter and once in Summer – plus rotating monthly and daily specials, it’s imperative that Salmon & Bear maintain a strong commitment to produce. Lucky for them, this part of the world has some of the best seafood around. “Our fish is sourced by our fishmonger Jules Crocker from Joto Fresh Fish. We only use sustainably caught fish”, said Ward. “Our salmon is the best in the world – Ora King Salmon from Malborough Sounds in New Zealand”.

In addition, both restaurants make all their salads, sauces and dressings in-house, while roasting veggies through the Mibrasa oven and even making their own kimchi. Their fish batter recipe is also kept close to the company, a secret method brought over from The British Oak Pub in Yorkshire – and if anyone knows how to make some damn good batter, it’s the English.

It seems like there’s plenty in store from Salmon & Bear over the coming years, and with them also showcasing lesser known fish species (like Alfonsino, Rusty Jobfish and Striped Trumpeter) there’s little doubt this brand will continue to grow along with the sustainable seafood movement.

Salmon & Bear Newtown

Address: 226 King Street, Newtown, Sydney NSW
Contact: (02) 9517 3200
Hours: Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sun 12pm-3pm + 5:30pm-late

Salmon & Bear Zetland

Address: 6 Defries Avenue Zetland, NSW
Contact: (02) 9662 8188
Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm + 5:30pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 12pm-10pm

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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