The Cheapskate Date has many rules about Friday night dinner. It should be cheap, but value for money, and in the neighbourhood. I knew we were breaking at least one of these rules when we drove across the Story Bridge for dinner at Swampdog Fish and Chips in Vulture Street. The slightly cocked eyebrow said it all as we searched street after street in South Brisbane for a park.
While walking the mile or two from our car park to the restaurant, the Date explained his philosophy. “The idea of a Friday night adventure is an oxymoron. After a big week, what you are looking for is a psychocentric* experience. Culinary allocentrism* is for the weekend.” Yes, he does talk like that.
Swampdog Fish and Chips is a revamped corner shop on a little slice of land on Vulture Street. They have a philosophy on sustainability, it is written on the walls, and some gnarly looking blokes working the pans. The set-up is pretty basic. The menu is written up on a wall sized blackboard and you line up to order. You can choose basic basic fish and chips, ranging from $10.90 for the mullet to $15.90 for the barramundi. We went a bit more upmarket. and I ordered the mackerel cutlet with pineapple and coriander salsa and an Asian salad ($16.90), while the CD ordered the special, Cajun grilled cobia ($19.90).
As part of its sustainability philosophy, the accoutrement at Swampdog is pretty basic. There is a long table inside and everyone else sits around outside on some old doors turned into tables in what looks like a car park. They supply disposable knives and forks and if you want anything else, like, say, a wine glass, you bring it yourself. On a busy Friday night, everyone played along and set their own tables with colourful cloths, cutlery and wine glasses. Very urban and festive.
The food comes pretty quickly, is served in cardboard cartons, and the serves generous. My mackerel was a bit mackerelly but nicely set off by the Asian salad with wombok, carrot, coriander, lettuce and mint. The CD was a bit sceptical about his cobia which really tasted like mackerel as well. He was suspicious the cajun spices were there to cover up rather than to enhance the fish and being served with a Greek salad just added some cross-cultural confusion.
Swampdog is deliberately rough and ready and not an elegant night out, but if you want a bit of casual boho dining with some virtuous sustainability thrown in, it is all good.
And did the Date enjoy the evening? After much deliberation, this is his verdict. “Overall, once the driving and parking were out of the way, this Friday night psychocentric diner had an enjoyable evening. A bit of fish, a bit of fun. Worth crossing the river on a Friday night? It would be a great local, but there is enough ‘OK’ closer to home for an end of the week casual nosh without having to venture too far from the village.”
Psychocentric: A psychological term for a person who prefers the familiar and is not open to new experiences. Psychocentric travellers are said to prefer trips close to home and to seek familiar environments with which they are comfortable.
Allocentric: Outwardly focussed, interested in others, not egocentric. Allocentric travellers are said to be drawn to adventure travel.
Swampdog Fish and Chips
186 Vulture Street, South Brisbane
Open: 7 days 12 noon to 8.30pm