Having grown up in the Shoalhaven town of Greenwell Point, Sam Cardow has always been passionate about seafood. His parents ran the River Seafood Restaurant above their house.
“I grew up with the seafood restaurant upstairs, but I’d moved to work in the mines,” Sam told Region Media.
”But when I had a baby I needed to do something different and my parents suggested I reopen the takeaway.
“Initially I wasn’t interested in a fish-and-chip shop, but Mum suggested I make it more of a cafe with a focus on seafood.”
Pretty soon, Sam realised he had a knack for the business and customers were coming from all over the place for their fish and chips. Before long, he was also winning awards. But he says there are only a few things you need to know to make excellent fish and chips.
“The trick to good fish and chips is clean oil, don’t overcook it, and use fresh produce.”
The fresh produce is where Sam’s Greenwell Point childhood comes in handy. He explained that many of his school friends now worked on fishing boats, so he had first dibs on the catch of the day!
“My best mate’s family are all fishermen and they catch the local blackfish in the river,” he said.
”They also have a trawler and they can get pretty much anything. It just depends on the time of year and what the weather is doing because fish are seasonal.
“The local flathead and blackfish are easy to get year-round, and there’s heaps of the blackfish in the river so it’s super sustainable.”
Both the flathead and blackfish are great options for the fish and chips at Pelican Rocks Cafe. A popular dish is the seafood basket for one, which features local barbecue prawns, a fresh oyster from local supplier Jim Wild’s Oysters, and fresh, house-made salads.
Sam says he loves chatting to customers and making sure that people leave with more than just a box of food.
“We want it to be more than just a takeaway, we want it to be an experience,” he said.
“Honestly, I’m just a boofhead running a fish-and-chip shop but we’re just trying to make it the best quality we can!”
Pelican Rocks Cafe won the NSW People’s Choice gong and was named overall winner in the 2022 Great Australian Fish and Chip Awards run by Seafood Industry Australia, the national peak body representing Australian seafood. And the cafe team are crossing their fingers for another win this year, with the announcement slated for mid-December.
Sam says these awards are judged on the quality of the food, the service, the amount of information customers are given about their meals, and the sustainability of their seafood. He’s proud of his achievements and loves that he’s able to support the fishing industry of his local community.
Pretty good for a boofhead who didn’t even want to start a fish-and-chip shop in the first place!
Pelican Rocks Cafe is at 117 Greenwell Point Rd, Greenwell, NSW.
It is open from 9 am to 2:30 pm on weekdays, and from 8 am to 2:30 pm on weekends.
Follow the cafe on Facebook or Instagram, or visit its website.