Hallelujah - Gluten free fish and chips in Bentleigh
As someone who has lived gluten-free, not by choice, for the past 15 years, I really miss potato cakes and fried flake. When I stumbled across Plant Seafood Grill on Centre Road in Bentleigh, the heavens opened up with a little "hallelujah" as I read through the menu board:
- Gluten-free fried flake (and several other fish varieties) - Gluten-free potato cakes - Gluten-free calamari rings, king-prawns and scallops - Gluten-free kids menu (fish bites, chicken strips, chicken nuggets, falafel) - Gluten-free salads
All of the menu packs are gluten free too, so you don't miss out on discounts because of your dietary requirements.
The most brilliant part about Planet Seafood Grill was actually a really simple, but insightful change, namely a dedicated deep fryer specifically for gluten-free cooking, so there is no cross-contamination with non-gluten free meals. Cooking utensils are also cleaned prior to cooking gluten-free food.
Manuel, owner of Planet Seafood Grill, checking on my chips in the dedicated gluten-free cooker
When you are ordering, make sure you indicate that you want your meal gluten-free, so that they can put it in the dedicated cooker. There is a small surcharge (50c per item or $2 per pack at the time of writing) for this service, which I thought was reasonable in the context of surcharges in other restaurants. The base price of the fish was also reasonable (e.g. $7.20 for flake at the time of writing), and the quality of the fish was very good, so even with the surcharge the fish was better value than many other fish and chip shops that I have been to.
The chips were cooked to perfection, golden and delicately crispy on the outside, and plenty of potato on the inside. The potato cakes were sliced (not mashed and pressed) with a crispy batter that crunched like a potato cake should. The flake and the fish bites used a different batter that was darker in colour and softer in texture. It held together well, but was more subtle in its flavour and feel. This had the advantage of not detracting from the flavour of the fish, but don't order your fish expecting a crunchy batter. The fish bites were made of real fish in a good sized clump, not a fish and filler mix.
After many years of having to eat grilled fish with my chips, including many flavourless, watery and occasionally surprise wheat-flour enhanced versions, upon eating the meal from Planet Seafood Grill I felt a weight had lifted off my shoulders. The burden of searching for a taste that that had eluded me for more than a decade was now gone, and the flavour that took me back to Friday nights as a child was with me once again.
If you don't live near Bentleigh, there are a few online lists of gluten-free fish and chipperies around Melbourne (none of which listed Bentleigh at the time of writing this article) or feel free to add your favourite gluten-free fish and chip shop in the comment section of this article.
After months of renovations with the shop signs still in place, unfortunately this restaurant seems to have now closed for good as they are putting up the signs for a new restaurant/cafe at this location. If anyone can recommend a similar quality gluten-free fish and chip shop in the bentleigh, ormond or glen huntly area, please let me know.