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Sydney's top chefs

 
SOME of Sydney's top chefs have lambasted the Sydney Fish Markets for selling old, damaged seafood that is an "embarrassment".

Greg Doyle, of Pier Restaurant, Neil Perry, of Rockpool, and Steve Hodges, of Fish Face, said they had concerns about the quality of produce, citing carelessly handled or waterlogged fish, plus too much ageing produce.

Mr Doyle said reviewers were "just being polite" when they said the markets were among the best in the world. "This is bullshit," he told the Herald. "I find the Sydney Fish Market an embarrassment."

The practice of spraying fish with water to make them glisten and appear fresh was bad for the fish, he said. "You go down to the fish market and there is so much product that's days and days old. They are spraying them with tap water and it can ruin the fish because it absorbs all this water. It's old fish. That's why the place has this stink."

Mr Perry, who is opposed to trawling, said many fish at the market had been poorly filleted and "chucked into a plastic bag".

"Fishermen could treat their fish better. There are a lot of fish getting through at the markets that have probably been hanging around for too long," he said. "I don't mean to have a go at the fish market because they are trying to be more pro-active, but a lot of it comes down to the consumer not being prepared to pay more for a good fish."

Mr Hodges is quoted in tomorrow's edition of Time Out magazine as saying the markets are "f-ing terrible", but when contacted by the Herald a spokeswoman said Mr Hodges had not meant to be so critical.

The three restaurateurs said they mainly sourced their fish directly from suppliers.

Grahame Turk, the managing director of Sydney Fish Markets, was appalled by the comments, and said the organisation met appropriate hygiene standards.

"It's ridiculous really, because all three of them have been down here buying fish," Mr Turk said. Most fish was sold the day it got to the market, although some, such as tuna and swordfish, would have been caught several days before a boat unloaded, he said.

"The smell at the fish markets is because it is a working port and the smell comes from garbage and offal," he said. "The reason it smells is because the car park drains directly into Blackwattle Bay, so you can't wash it down. But look at the inside - I would be quite happy to eat my dinner off the auction room floor."

He said the site was more hygienic than most overseas markets.

The regional co-operative system used by most fishermen meant produce was often too old by the time it reached the city, Mr Doyle said. "Everything caught in NSW goes back to each small fishery department then it's sent to Sydney, then it goes onto the auction room floor. Then the people from Ulladulla, for example, come up and buy it here, and it's trucked back down there � it's a pretty stupid system."

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Primary Industries said the system worked successfully and allowed local fishermen to get the best price for their catch.

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