Home' LOTL : April 2005 Contents 33
MERRYN JOHNS DINES WITH LAURIE
JAMIESON, OWNER AND CHEF OF
CATFISH GOTTA EAT, NEWTOWN'S NEW
Running a good restaurant is no easy task,
especially if you are a lesbian chef intent
on serving fine food at no frills prices.
What makes a restaurant enticing? "It has
to be quality driven, offering reasonably
priced product. You have to be passionate
about food. I want every single customer
who comes in here to have a good time,"
says the dynamic Laurie Jamieson, who
originally hails from Boston.
And Laurie is the woman to deliver the
goods. She has had seven restaurant
ventures to date, all of them outstandingly
successful. Catfish Gotta Eat is her newest
establishment and is proving a hit with
lesbians around Sydney.
You are probably wondering how the
restaurant came to be named. Laurie
explains. "A diver friend of mine was
describing a school of catfish to me.
They're bottom feeders," says Laurie, her
bright blue green eyes smiling, "and their
particular feeding pattern is based on a
complicated co-operative system involving
turnover. I said, 'Well, catfish gotta eat.'
Then later I had a dream that I had a
restaurant and that was what it was called."
With the ease of a dream, Laurie found
herself creating a restaurant with a seafood
angle, featuring an aquarium of the
eponymous creatures (not on the menu).
"It's been the easiest restaurant I ever
started. I've had a lot of support from
locals, friends and the lesbian community."
The menu, which features delectable
seasonal ingredients, from Port Stephens
oysters to Eden mussels, takes advantage
of the freshest produce available,
organic wherever possible. A
former vegetarian for 25 years,
Laurie's sensitivity towards the
treatment of animals in the food
industry has not curbed her
culinary flair. "I like to sear
scallops a particular way, and
people tell me I do a great steak,"
says the former vegan and activist.
Throughout her illustrious foodie
career Laurie has been an
executive chef presiding over no
fewer than forty chefs, and she
once ran a national catering
business serving up to 10,000
people. She is perhaps best known as
the former owner/chef of vegetarian
restaurant Harvest in Rozelle and Brio in
Bronte from where she moved two years
ago. She passes on her skills to those who
work with her, training staff to meet her
standards of service.
The meals at Catfish are best described as
modern Australian, but there is a key to
their appeal. Simplicity, balance, and
something for everyone, including gluten
and dairy free options. While price,
presentation and choice are all
paramount, Laurie remains very
particular about her ingredients. "The fish
are organically farmed and the restaurant
employs the same wholesaler used by
Hugo's, Pier and Catalina. The oysters
are shucked to order and I only use
Australian prawns and not frozen
product. I just couldn't do that as a chef.
"My market is value for money," says
Laurie, which is welcome news to many
lesbians in the area who have grown tired
of Thai and other cheap dining options.
There are few if any gay and lesbian
owned restaurants around, and Laurie
thrives on the company of the local girls
who have made the place a home away
from home. In spite of workdays
averaging ten hours, Laurie is always
energetic, tending to the needs of her
many devoted customers. Does she ever
dream of a quieter life? "One day I'd like
to own a guesthouse by the sea with a
restaurant that serves good food, wine and
home grown vegies. I don't think I could
ever stop cooking. I love it." e
Catfish Gotta Eat, Shop 1, 3-13
Erskineville Rd, Newtown. BYO and
licensed. Ph (02) 9557 4455.
Wednesdays @ Catfish. Before you head
to The Bank Hotel, take advantage of
Laurie's $15 menu, $8 cocktails and the
smooth grooves of DJ Feisty, 6pm-9pm
Photo: Fiora Sacco
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