Altona Beach Bites, 137 Esplanade, Altona. Phone: 9398 1444
Alongside a range of your regulation soft drinks, there’s bottles and cans of Lemon & Paeroa in the fridge.
The blackboard specials line-up includes kumara fritters.
On a wall there is a number plate-style sign that says: “Kia Ora.”
Below it is one of the handwritten variety saying: “Uncooked mutton birds in brine.”
Yes, this is Kiwi territory – so naturally I feel right at home for lunch on a sunny day right next to Altona Beach.
The place used to be called Altona Ice, but has been run for the past couple of years by Kristen and Marty, the latter being the New Zealand factor.
It’s a cheerful old-school fish and chippery that also does souvlakis, burgers and even mussel chowder.
There’s only a single bench seat and no dedicated interior seating for eating.
There are, though, a handful of outdoor tables, and happily the one that is being shaded from the sun becomes vacant just as my lunch number is called.
My outdoor lunch is most excellent – and certainly a lot more toothsome than the pallid impression cast by my photo would suggest.
The very good chips are old-school, too, and of uniform crispness.
The calamari rings ($1 each) are actually “calamari rings” – that is, surimi-style, processed relatives of seafood extender.
I used to get a bit sniffy and even angry about this kind of thing, but since researching surimi last year I’ve mellowed.
These are well cooked and taste fine, though I’d prefer to be informed when I order.
In any case, Kristen later tells me that they often do have real-deal calamari on the go.
My butterfish ($5.80) is superb and delicious in every way. This is state-of-the-art battered and deep-fried fish.
It’s bloody big, too!
Encased in good batter that adheres really well, the fish is mild of flavour and both delicate and firm.
I suspect Altona Beach Bites probably gets a bit insane on sunny weekends, especially in tandem with the adjoining ice-cream parlour, so mid-week visits are probably the go.
Funny thing is, I have no recollection of what Lemon & Paeroa tastes like.
And I have no desire whatsoever to refresh my memory – even if the stuff is “World Famous In New Zealand”.