Having managed to come out of the Adreno Fitness Challenge 2011 a good 8 kilos lighter than I was last September, I felt like 'sinning' and went looking for a real treat. I found a newly opened Fish ‘n Chips shop in my neighbourhood that is different to any I’ve seen before and as a diver I was very excited to see it promotes itself as caring about marine conservation and the environment. At this new trendy shop in South Brisbane, called Swampdog , the owner has developed an impressive seafood menu that is sourced from sustainable fisheries. Their slogan: ‘GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR ME, GOOD FOR THE SEA’.
The whole concept, for a takeaway place at least, was so new to me, that I want to share this with you all. Just to put it out there that is actually possible to care for marine life, even if you like to eat seafood, by choosing which species we eat carefully and how we prepare and eat them. Normally overfishing, by-catch, and habitat degradation are all associated with seafood. But not at Swampdog. The owner has been an angler most of his life, so he understands fisheries and their need to make a profit, but he also understands what people want: restaurants that you can feel good about going to, even if it is for fish and chips.
Sustainable selection Besides talking to fish farmers and conservation groups about fish species that are sustainable, the owner has even thought about wider sustainability issues like food miles, recycling etc. None of the fish are imports and everything on the menu is as local as possible, which means less carbon miles.
The Swampdog menu consists of mostly seafoods listed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society or the Australian Conservation Foundation as being sustainable. If the fish do come from aquaculture farms, the fisheries have been checked out by the owners to make sure they are as sustainable as possible. Fishing methods which are associated with habitat degradation or large bycatch are banned.
Recycling The packaging at Swamdog is a combination of closed loop paper (boxes), biodegradable bamboo (cutlery) and clear bioplastic packaging. If you dine in you’ll even be drinking out of cardboard cups. By the way, you’ll get delicious complementary homemade lemonade with your order! You’ll be sitting at a recycled wooden table (an old door) and afterwards encouraged to separate your waste in the provided recycling bins.
The owner knows the shop cannot be fully sustainable (yet), and isn’t pretending it is, but says it is an evolving endeavour. The mere fact that now even small Fish ‘n Chips shops are making a point by selecting their menu based upon sustainability, is very good news indeed. And judging by the way we all are treating our reefs and the impact from global warming, it may even have to become a necessity in future.
The other advantage is that it is also healthier and tastier fish and chips. At Swampdog, they don’t sell chicko rolls or dim sums. It is all fish and they use a fluffy, almost white, crispy batter (the oil is being recycled later as diesel for their vehicles) and offer many salad options with home-grown herbs. Besides your ‘regular’ fish and chips options, there is a tempura platter, an octopus and Greek salad, a spicy mackerel wrap and even grilled sardines on sourdough on the menu, just to name a few dishes. You are allowed to bring your own beer, which makes a visit to Swampdog all the more attractive.
Try it out! So people, change the way you eat fish and chips and ask your local Fish ‘n Chips shop where they get their seafood from! Or, if you are lucky enough to live in Brisbane, visit Swampdog.
As for me: the Adreno Firness Challenge 2012 is about to start and since I really need to show all the sporty spearos and scuba divers at work that the web team may be nerdy, but can still beat them at sports, I'll be returning to Swampdog only for the salads with grilled fish...for the time being.