Harry and Frankie have a special place in my and my husband’s heart. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and chat with both regulars and noobs. The vibe is relaxed, even when busy. The interior is stunning. Wine bottles, stacked five shelves high, line one side of the venue and the the arched ceiling, covered in an intricate vine design, gives a warm glow to the place.
It was here we took home the 2013 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay. A perfect balance between over-the-top oaky chardonnay (my taste) and a more fresh, citrusy flavour (my husbands preference). Six months passed before we reached an occasion special enough to crack the bottle. Worth it.
I’ll never forget our first visit–the night we were introduced to Harry and Frankie rockling tacos.
Hooked. Instantly. I would dream about those tacos and return every six weeks or so especially for them. Everything else was a bonus. A server once said I wasn’t alone. He’d heard it all before. People craved those damn fish tacos.
Our relationship grew. I introduced friends to those tacos. I sent people specifically for the tacos. I promised to take friends and family to “the place with the best fish tacos you’ve ever had” when they next visited. I was proud to give away my little secret.
I had my final rockling taco experience on the night of my birthday. Little did I know those would be my last (I would have cleaned them out). I was oblivious that the entire menu was about to change in only a few days.
Four weeks later, I returned for my taco hit (I couldn’t last the full six). They gave me the news. I didn’t believe it at first. Then it sunk in–I would never burn my tongue on those tacos again; never change another friend’s world; never again satisfy the craving Harry and Frankie started.
I took the breakup hard, but I’m a survivor and so have attempted to recreate the rockling tacos. I found this crispy fish taco recipe and adapted it as best I could.
I would order the rockling tacos without the dollop of chipotle mayo (but I hear it was sublime) and I made up the cabbage preparation. I’m not a chef, but it worked out well.
Rockling fish tacos
- two rockling fillets
- two packets of small corn tortillas
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp polenta
- 1 tps baking powder
- ½ tps salt
- 1 cup Mountain Goat Summer Ale (or whatever you prefer)
- 1 egg, beaten
- olive oil for frying
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 red cabbage, thinly sliced
- avocado, sliced
- Place shredded cabbage in a bowl with the apple cider vinegar, set aside
- Pat the rockling dry with paper towels and slice into 2.5cm-wide lengths
- Put ½ cup of flour onto a dish
- Whisk ½ cup flour, the 1/4 cup polenta, baking powder and salt in a bowl
- Pour in the beer and the beaten egg and stir until this forms a batter
- Heat olive oil in a frying pan–enough to shallow-fry the rockling
- Dip the pieces of rockling into the batter, then coat in the flour mix, then coat again in the 2tbsp of polenta before placing into the frypan (this makes them extra crunchy)
- Fry on each side for 3–5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy
- Transfer to paper towels, season with salt, let cool
- Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the cabbage. Saute until soft (I’m going to add a little red wine next time)
- Place rockling pieces on tortillas and top with cabbage and avocado
Makes around 10–12.
The day I learned they took those tacos away, I felt cheated. Of course restaurants and bars do this. Many menus change seasonally. This is about the relationships customers form with businesses like Harry and Frankie. We feel in on it, part of it. It’s adds to who we are and what we say about ourselves.
(And if Supernormal dropped the lobster rolls from their menu–especially without consultation–Melburnians would be outraged.)
This blog post is part therapy, part observation. Many hospitality businesses operate outside of their customers’ worlds. They should know that they *are* their customers worlds.
You may be thinking, “It’s not all about the menu.” Unfortunately, I can’t eat much from Harry and Frankie’s new menu. I’m looking for a rebound, so if you know a good fish taco place in Port Melbourne, Albert Park or South Melbourne, please let me in on your little secret.