Breakfast at Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

It is often said that one should do what the Romans do when in Rome. I am definitely a fan of embracing the best of what a place has to offer when travelling.

So when my mum and her girlfriends came to Sydney for a short vacation last week, there were so many new restaurants to check out but the one place they cannot go past is the Sydney Fish Market, heart of Sydney’s seafood paradise just 2km south of the CBD in Pyrmont.

The market is a fascinating place because it begins as early as 5am where truckloads of fresh seafood and fishing boats come to Blackwattle Bay with their daily catch. The SFM has been using the Dutch clock auction since 1989 and is held at 5.30am every weekday. It is a silent auction which begins at the highest price and drops until a bid is made. The starting price is usually set about $2 above what the product is expected to receive. Two clocks auction seafood  simultaneously to ensure the product is sold quickly.

Under the Dutch clock auction, approximately 1,000 crates of seafood are sold every hour. On average, each crate weighs 23 kilograms. SFM sells around 2,700 crates at every auction, or 65 tonnes of fresh seafood every day.

While the majority of produce is sold through the Dutch clock auction, a traditional voice auction is used for live crustaceans and sashimi tuna.

Over the recent years, the SFM has seen an increase in human traffic each day and I have found the crowds during weekends to be overwhelming especially during lunch time.

Breakfast at Sydney Fish Market 

Tools of the trade: All the essentials for a good meal at the Sydney Fish Market

Tools of the trade: All the essentials for a good meal at the Sydney Fish Market

On this occasion, we have decided to go on an early Monday morning to check out the seafood, avoid the huge crowds and have a seafood breakfast.

Of course, an important thing to ensure an enjoyable meal is to bring some of your cutlery from home – chopsticks, utensils, plates, sauces, wine glasses, wine cooler etc.

We have had many enjoyable picnics with our trusty picnic bag that neatly carries all that essential items for a meal.

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont

One way to work up an appetite is to take a stroll around all the seafood retailers at the SFM. De Costi Seafoods located outside the main complex is one of the largest.

Prawn bar at De Costi Seafoods

Prawn bar at De Costi Seafoods

Prawns, both raw and cooked are one of the favourite items with seafood lovers. It is especially popular during the Christmas period where the SFM is open for trading for 54 consecutive hours leading up to Christmas Day.

Red snapper, $15.99/kg

Red snapper, $15.99/kg

Snapper is one of the best fish to grill on a BBQ because it is not a fatty fish.

Oyster shucker at the oyster bar

Oyster shucker at the oyster bar

It is a marvel to watch the oyster shuckers at work. The good ones are reputed to be able to shuck between 6 – 8 oysters per minute.

Pacific oysters from Swan Bay, New South Wales $16.00/dozen

Pacific oysters from Swan Bay, New South Wales $16.00/dozen

There is a quite a number of oyster farms dotted along the New South Wales north and south coast. Sydney rock oysters are a little smaller with a yellowish tinge and an intense seafood flavour. Pacific oysters are a little larger, whiter in colour and creamy in texture.

Scallops in the shell, $19.99/dozen

Scallops in the shell, $19.99/dozen

Scallops in the shell are great for baking in a herb and garlic butter sauce.

Crab claws, $44.50/kg

Crab claws, $44.50/kg

Oyster Kilpatrick and oyster mornay $2.50each, $13 per half dozen $25 per dozen

Oyster Kilpatrick and oyster mornay $2.50each, $13 per half dozen $25 per dozen

The cooked seafood such as oyster Kilpatrick, mornay or lobster thermidor always looks good but one should be a little cautious because they could be a hit and miss with so many pre-cooked seafood at the counters.

I generally avoid these cooked seafood as I find it is always fresher to cook it at home.

Oyster and prawn platter $18.50 per tray

Oyster and prawn platter $18.50 per tray

Large cooked king prawns $34.50/kg

Large cooked king prawns $34.50/kg

2011 Josef Chromy Chardonnay from Tasmania

2011 Josef Chromy Chardonnay from Tasmania

A 2011 Josef Chromy Chardonnay has a ripened apples on the nose with good oak complexity. It is a luscious mouthful and an excellent choice with seafood.

Deep fried calamari rings

Deep fried calamari rings

Cooked Crystal bay tiger prawns

Cooked Crystal bay tiger prawns

Cooked prawns are so fresh, they are always firm and crunchy with the salty goodness of the sea. My favourite dip is a bit of wasabi in light soy sauce.

Peeling a cooked prawn and deep fried anchovies

Peeling a cooked prawn and deep fried anchovies

Stir-fried lobster with ginger, shallots and noodles $104.50/kg

Stir-fried lobster with ginger, shallots and noodles $104.50/kg

Being visitors from overseas. my mum and her friends are keen on the classic stir-fried lobster with ginger, shallots and noodles.

Customers can choose the live lobsters from the fish tanks on display and it will be weighed. Then pay the amount at the counter and go find a seat. Depending on the crowds, these live seafood dishes normally take about twenty minutes for the chefs to prepare.

This lobster is approximately 2 kg and at $104.50/kg, this dish is not exactly cheap at around $210.

Lobster sashimi $104.50/kg

Lobster sashimi $104.50/kg

From the live lobster, customers also have the added option of assigning part of the meat to be eaten sashimi style while the rest of the lobster stir fried with ginger and shallots.

This lobster sashimi cannot possibly be any fresher. It is sweet, the texture slightly firm and crunchy. As far as I am concerned, there are only 2 ways to eat this raw lobster – on its own to savour the pure taste of lobster or dip it into some light soy sauce with a touch of wasabi.

Stir-fried abalone $100/kg

Stir-fried abalone $100/kg

Live green-lip abalone are also available from the seafood tanks and we choose abalone stir-fried with garlic and ginger.

The abalone is sliced very thinly and quickly tossed in a very hot wok. The cardinal sin is overcooking an expensive seafood item like abalone and it becomes tough and rubbery.

This abalone is served in its own shell that acts like a plate. I find abalone to be almost neutral in taste except for its slight seafood aroma. Asians, especially the Chinese are fixated with this dish and I suspect it is appreciated for its slightly firm and rubber-like texture.

Crab claws $44.50/kg

Crab claws $44.50/kg

The giant crab claws are slightly chilled and comes with a few wedges of lemon.

A giant crab claw

A giant crab claw

Unlike crabs and prawns, the peeling process for these giant claws are relatively easy.

Part of the lower shell of each crab claws has been removed. All you need to do is hold up the claw and the long piece of meat will easily fall out of the shell.

Sashimi bar at Musumeci Seafoods

Sashimi bar at Musumeci Seafoods

There are at least 4 -5  different sashimi bars at in the SFM and they serve anything from tuna, salmon, kingfish, prawn, lobster, squid and octopus sashimi.

Love it or loath it, SFM is truly a fascinating place where seafood lovers can feast their eyes on almost any imaginable seafood and vivid images of how they can be cooked at home. After all, Sydney is an amazing city for seafood. Where else can you get such fresh varieties of seafood at 7 am in the morning?

Try to avoid the heavy weekend crowds and if you choose to make a trip, it is worthy to buy home some seafood since it is so fresh.

After lunch, we take another tour of the SFM to ogle at more seafood but this time, it is to buy as well. Foldable eskis and ice-packs are available for sale from most of the seafood retailers should you decide to purchase larger amounts of seafood.

Mum and her 3 friends ended up with 4 big eskis of seafood – whole salmon, abalone and lobsters to be checked into their flight back to Malaysia.

All in all, a very fruitful trip to the Sydney Fish Market.

Live male mud crabs $28.99/kg

Live male mud crabs $28.99/kg

Sydney Fish Market is the largest seafood market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the world’s second largest seafood market in terms of variety outside of Japan.

A working fish market, SFM sources product both nationally and internationally and trades over 14,000 tonnes of seafood annually – with up to a hundred species of sustainable Australian seafood traded every day.

Customers buying seafood at Musumeci Seafoods

Customers buying seafood at Musumeci Seafoods

SFM employs over fifty staff to organise the weekday wholesale auction, promote Sydney Fish Market as the centre of seafood excellence and operates the Sydney Seafood School.

Prawn counter and sashimi bar, Peter's Seafoods

Prawn counter and sashimi bar, Peter's Seafoods

There is also the Sydney Seafood School where regular cooking classes with prominent Sydney chefs are regularly held.

Eastern rock lobster $67.95/kg

Eastern rock lobster $67.95/kg

Since opening in 1989, SSS has played an important part of persuading Sydney residents to eat more fish. The School is considered to be one of Australia’s leading cooking schools. Over 13,000 people come to classes each year.

Cooked spanner crabs $16.99/kg

Cooked spanner crabs $16.99/kg

History of the Sydney Fish Market

Until 1945, the marketing of fish in New South Wales was conducted by licensed fish agents operating out of Haymarket fish market, or by unlicensed operators elsewhere in the state.

Cooked blue swimmer crabs $19.99/kg

Cooked blue swimmer crabs $19.99/kg

In 1945, the New South Wales government amended the Fisheries and Oyster Farms Act to effectively cancel all licenses held by Sydney fish agents and transformed the marketing of fish in New South Wales to the Chief Secretary’s Department.

Wild yellowtail kingfish $17.99/kg

Wild yellowtail kingfish $17.99/kg

The Chief Secretary’s Department established a regulated market system and controlled the centralized market in Sydney until 1994.

Mussels, abalone, crabs, lobsters and prawns, Nicholas Seafoods

Mussels, abalone, crabs, lobsters and prawns, Nicholas Seafoods

At the same time, the marketing in New South Wales outside Sydney was conducted through a number of fishermen’s cooperatives operating along the coastal areas of NSW.

Tasmanian octopus, $17.99/kg

Tasmanian octopus, $17.99/kg

The year 1964 saw the formation of the Fish Marketing Authority, a new yet still state run body, which assumed responsibility for the conduct and management of SFM previously maintained by the Chief Secretary’s Department.

Whole Tasmanian salmon $14.99/kg

Whole Tasmanian salmon $14.99/kg

Two years later in 1966, SFM moved from the Haymarket area of Sydney to its current location at Blackwattle Bay, Pyrmont.  

Wild yellowtail kingfish $15.99/kg

Wild yellowtail kingfish $15.99/kg

In those days, fish were sold using the labour intensive, traditional ‘voice’ auction system. 

De Costi Seafoods, Sydney Fish Market

De Costi Seafoods, Sydney Fish Market

This system saw buyers assemble outside the sales bay fence, where an assistant would hold up samples of fish from each box for buyers to bid until the highest price was reached.

Large sand whiting $18.99

Large sand whiting $18.99

Sydney Fish Market Pty Ltd was formed on the 28 October 1994, when the New South Wales overnment privatised the marketing of seafood. 

Whole Mulloway / Jewfish $15.99

Whole Mulloway / Jewfish $15.99

Since then two equal shareholders, the Catchers Trust and the Sydney Fish Market Tenants and Merchants Pty Ltd have jointly owned the company.  

Raw scampi / langoustine $64.99/kg

Raw scampi / langoustine $64.99/kg

Shortly after the New South Wales State government deregulated fish marketing over a two-stage, five-year period, as legislated monopoly was not acceptable under private ownership. 

Whole ocean trout $18.50/kg

Whole ocean trout $18.50/kg

The first stage of deregulation came in November 1997 when fishermen’s cooperatives were permitted to sell directly to Sydney buyers.

Whole snapper $14.99

Whole snapper $14.99

Total deregulation followed in November 1999, when New South Wales catchers could supply direct to any buyer in possession of a Fish Receiver’s Permit.

The result, SFM no longer holds a monopoly over the sale of seafood into the Sydney region.

Black flatheads $14.99/kg

Black flatheads $14.99/kg

SFM introduced a computerised Dutch auction in October 1989, dramatically evolving the way fish was to be sold.

Modelled on the ‘reverse’ auction system, which has been used for over 130 years to sell tulips in Amsterdam, SFM’s auctioneers set the price approximately $2 higher than the assumed market price.

Ocean trout fillet $31.95/kg

Ocean trout fillet $31.95/kg

The clock then winds down at a rate of $1 per revolution and the price drops until a buyer stops the clock by pressing a button.

The successful buyer then selects a number of crates from the ‘lot’.

Barramundi cutlets $22.95/kg

Barramundi cutlets $22.95/kg

In February 2004, state-of-the-art digital video projectors were installed to enhance the auction clocks. These large screens face toward around 150 to 200 buyers each day.

Atlantic salmon cutlets $22.99/kg

Atlantic salmon cutlets $22.99/kg

Through this reverse auction system, SFM can now offer buyers the fastest and most efficient method of trading seafood, whilst still ensuring the best possible price in open competition.

Atlantic salmon fillets $27.99/kg

Atlantic salmon fillets $27.99/kg

Approximately 1,000 crates or 20,000 kg of seafood are sold every hour during SFM auctions.

That’s an average of 2,700 crates, or 50 tonnes of fresh seafood, traded every day.

Gunard fillets (NZ flatheads) $26.95/kg

Gunard fillets (NZ flatheads) $26.95/kg

In 1989 SFM established Sydney Seafood School. The School now attracts 13,000 participants a year and hosts an enviable list of Australia’s finest guest chefs.

Mussels, abalone, crabs, lobsters and prawns, Nicholas Seafoods

Mussels, abalone, crabs, lobsters and prawns, Nicholas Seafoods

In 2001, SFM launched its innovative new online-based seafood trading system, SFMlive that operates in addition to the Dutch auction.

Fresh Queensland black tiger prawns

Fresh Queensland black tiger prawns

SFMlive now provides traders with advanced facilities for direct online seafood sales including wild harvest, aquaculture and frozen products, taking fish trading to a new level.

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont

Onsite, SFM hosts six seafood retailers, a bottle shop, fruit and vegetable market, bakery, sushi bar, restaurants, gift shop and delicatessen.  

So dear readers do you enjoy seafood and if so, what is your favourite kind of seafood?

Sydney Fish Market
Locked Bag 247
Bank street, Pyrmont 2009
New South Wales

Tel: +61 2 9004 1100

Trading hours: Every day from 7am – 4pm except Christmas Day

Go to www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au for find out more about trading hours, auction times and other events.

Sydney Seafood School
Manager: Roberta Miur

Tel: +61 2 9004 1111

To find more information about seafood restaurants around Sydney, you can also visit Sydney.com Destination NSW.

Doyles at Sydney Fish Market

Tel:+61 2 95524339

Doyles at Sydney Fish Markets on Urbanspoon

Fish Market Cafe
Shop 4, Waterfront Arcade
Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9660 4280

Fish Market Cafe - Sydney Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Christie’s Seafood
Waterfront Arcade
Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9552 3333

Christie?s Seafood Excellence - Sydney Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Nicholas Seafood
Shop 6, Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9660 4255

Nicholas Seafood - Sydney Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Sushi Bar at the Fish Market
Waterfront Arcade< Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9552 2269

Sushi Bar at the Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Peter’s Seafood
Shop 4, Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9552 2555

Peter?s Seafood on Urbanspoon

Blackwattle Deli
Waterfront Arcade, Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9660 5998

Blackwattle Deli on Urbanspoon

Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood
Level 1, Bank street
Sydney Fish Market

Tel: +61 2 9660 9888

Opening hours: 7 days Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Fisherman?s Wharf Seafood on Urbanspoon

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16 Responses to Breakfast at Sydney Fish Market

  1. Love the organisation! We used to pack a little wedge of butter for baguettes with prawn, lemon, salt and pepper!

  2. Maureen says:

    What an amazing post and fantastic for the Sydney Fish Market. I’ve only been there once but I was gobsmacked by the size of it. :)

  3. I never really considered it a breakfast destination until you showed me the pics of the stir fried lobster-yum! I’m not a huge fan of lobster sashimi though, it’s a bit tough and stringy for me. I prefer it cooked :)

  4. thanks for posting this up! my cousin is coming to Sydney soon and he wants to check out the seafood so this should be good to check out :D

  5. Awesome post! I love visiting SFM and took my Peter there for the first time this year. It is an amazing and delicious place!

  6. Row says:

    Love the photos and the detailed history of the SFM! The picnic bag is an excellent idea. :)

  7. Raymund says:

    This looks like heaven for me, look at all those seafood

  8. ahh i’ve been wanting to do a picnic date at the fish markets since forever. Love the seafood there, it is unbelievably fresh!

  9. I visited the Sydney Fish Markets a couple of years ago and had oysters for breakfast. What an incredible feast you had – so much food! And I love, love, love your picnic basket. I really need to get myself one of those :D

  10. irene says:

    What a breakfast! I can imagine myself snacking on the deep fried anchovies, they look so addictive :)

  11. Mickael says:

    Hello! WOW that market seems huge! I visited once a market like this one, but in Spain. It was in Malaga, and all the fishes just recently fished were on sale! Really nice, I imagine that you go there very often…

  12. tigerfish says:

    Wow, that gorgeous galore of seafood!!! Thanks for sharing SFM. I hope to visit the market one day.

  13. Seafood galore for breakfast?!? Sign me up!! :D

  14. mr.C says:

    Very informative post. I always look forward to going to Sydney Fish Markets. My favourite seafood has to be good ol’ oysters. Sydney Rocks or Angassi. And a good serving of marron or fatty salmon.

  15. Grace says:

    Hi, I was wondering which store the lobster noodles were from..they look DELICIOUS!

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Grace,

      The lobster noodles were from the shop on your left (where the oyster shucker is located) as you are walking into the main building where the fruit and vege shop is located at the end. This shop is opposite Peter’s.

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