Levee Food Co
27 Seaport Boulevard
The culinary memory invoked by the dinner menu here had been cobwebbing in the Hinch brain for decades. Close to fifty years.
Something from way back in the early 1960s when this
impoverished young journalist, a recent arrival from across the ditch in
New Zealand, was sharing a Sydney apartment with umpteen other
impoverished young bachelors.
There was a Police Rounds reporter nicknamed ‘Itchy Jim’. A
budding real estate developer (from Tasmania) who went on to be a
multi-millionaire, and a boat bum who’d just come back from sailing
We needed a heap of guys to share the rent because it was a
pretty snazzy apartment opposite the Cruising Yacht Club in Sydney’s
Our weekend world revolved around going to the pub,
talking about the slight chance of getting laid, visiting the Laundromat
and the weekly trip to the butcher and the supermarket.
The suave millionaire-in-the-making was too busy making
deals to join in those activities and was the only one who could afford
to eat out.
The weekly grocery shopping excursion was a double
challenge. Nobody could agree on what we should buy or how much we
needed. The butcher’s shop was easy: lamb chops, sausages and some
chopped steak for stew.
Every week the ruddy-faced butcher would cheerfully pass
on his take on world events plus his Saturday motto: ‘Remember…. if you
don’t eat, you don’t shit and if you don’t shit, you die.’
Our biggest planning problem was The Boat Bum. He’d work
erratic hours, come home spattered in tar and marine paint, and eat one
The problem was that if there were ten slices of bread in
the bin he would eat ten slices of bread. If there were four cans of
baked beans in the cupboard he’d eat four cans of baked beans. Three
pints of milk in the fridge? He’d drink all three.
He had another habit that he had picked up in Fiji. (I suspect among other things he picked up in Fiji).
One day there was a huge plate of grey stuff in the
fridge. I asked ‘Itchy Jim’ what it was. ‘The Boat Bum’s cooking some
fish’. It was still there next day although it had turned white. ‘It’s
That’s when I learned about ‘cooking’ raw fish in lemon juice.
Now, I was not long out of New Zealand where our family
cooking habits made even the Poms look like gourmets. Not only was
everything cooked – it was cooked until there was no hint that it had
ever been raw.
On Sundays, roast vegetables were spread out around the
leg of roast lamb, put in the oven at the same time, and cooked for a
couple of hours. And Mum boiled the bejeesus out of everything. I
thought cabbage started out grey until I left Kiwiland.
So eating fish, even if supposedly ‘cooked’ with lemon
juice, was a no-no. How we change. These days, in any ‘What would your
Last Supper be?’ quiz I would have to include raw tuna sashimi and,
appropriately named, Coffin Bay oysters.
I didn’t try The Boat Bum’s Fiji fish recipe. But the
memory gates flooded open when I dined recently at the Levee Food Co.
There on the menu was marinated Trevalla. ‘Thinly sliced fresh ‘Blue
Eye’ marinated in our own vinaigrette for a minimum of seven days and
served cold with dressed greens and ‘Jack Bread’.
Now even The Boat Bum would only leave it in the fridge
for a couple of days. Seven days minimum? After three days they say it
goes off –like visiting relatives.
Still, I had to give it a try. And it was beautiful. Firm, white, tender, chilled, perfectly ‘cooked’ fish.
To go with it I had another cold dish:
‘Ho Chi prawns’ which were farmed prawns tossed with glass noodles and a
Thai dressing served with crunchy fried shallots. Couldn’t fault that
The rest of the menu looked cheerful,
especially Tasmanian Scallops and a huge list of pizzas, but sadly my
dining partner at this business meal (not Mrs. Nosebag) would only have a
I said it took me back fifty years. So
did the prices. The bill for a big plate of marinated fish, plus the
prawns, the green salad and two glasses of juice: Forty bucks!
Footnote: The address is ‘Seaport
Boulevard’. But the new Restaurant Row sits on a pier jutting out on to
an estuary a long way from the sea. The tide was out the night we were
there and the boats were all stranded high and wet in the mud. The Boat
Bum would have chuckled.