Urchin Bar & Grill

Urchin Bar & Grill

Seafood Heaven 


After over a decade in Sydney, Steven Skelly, the British-born, former Pier Head Chef has recently opened his new and exciting seafood restaurant, Urchin Bar & Grill, set in the heart of Seminyak – and I was lucky enough to join him for dinner.


As the name suggests, the restaurant is themed around the humble Sea Urchin, and whilst the small sophisticated dining room is beautifully understated, there is nothing humble about the menu.

Early in the evening it’s quite a moody place, built around the impressive open kitchen with relaxed low lighting and richly coloured wood and stone throughout. It’s comfortable too, and with bar style seating for sushi or entrées, dining tables indoors and rattan furnishings outdoors, there’s a nice variety of options. Whilst there is nothing pretentious or formal about Urchin, the food is definitely fine dining quality.


I arrived early and over the delicious Oriental Garden cocktail, a refreshing mix of gin, lemon and grapefruit, I pressed Steven on how his love affair with seafood had begun.

It started while celebrating his birthday at Pier, Steven confided, where he was intrigued with how the Chef had managed to cook fish with such crispy skin and succulent flesh to create a marriage of tastes and textures that piqued the taste buds. Determined to unravel the mystery, Steven applied to work at Pier and, years later, still uses some of those same techniques today.


He quickly developed a passion for seafood and, over a prolonged period in Sydney, has developed a quite distinctive take on just how it should be cooked and served.

The abundant range of available fish, the different tastes and textures and the magnitude of ways to create an intriguing harmony of taste experiences caught him in its culinary claw and today the myriad of possibilities that local fish present keeps Steven more than occupied.


He is keen to tempt tentative fish eaters to the delights that can be found in oceans and, peeking at the menu, one feels that with Urchin his creativity will find a whole new and appreciative audience, as well as netting a huge catch of traditional lovers of awesome seafood.

All the seafood served at Urchin is from export-certified suppliers who have checked it carefully before presenting it to Steven. He makes his own rigorous inspection before accepting anything and only buys whole fish, which he and his very capable team slice, dice, chop and cook to the delight of his ever-growing band of followers. When I asked about the quality, he says he finds Indonesian fish is just as good as that in Sydney and in some cases, even better.


While admitting that before Urchin he had been keen to be left in the kitchen, out of the public eye, he is thriving on the new challenges of having nowhere to hide in the completely open kitchen and teaching and working with his very talented kitchen and restaurant team.

The earlier mouthwatering glance at the menu had only hinted at the tantalising culinary experience that lay ahead. So, deferring to Steven’s recommendations, I opened my account with the Tartare Cone, from the Bites and Starters Menu. Crammed full of succulent Tasmanian salmon tartare, this cone-shaped, fried wanton skin, arriving on its own little stand, was simply scrumptious!


The palette cleansed, it was Salmon Pastrami served with toasted sourdough with extra virgin olive oil dressing, and Coral Trout Carpaccio with fern and fennel pollen up next from the Entrées menu. The delicious salmon pastrami was delectably complex, both rich and fresh at the same time; quite a feat.

Both dishes suggested a lot of thought had been put into presentation and, with that in mind, my gaze was drawn towards the kitchen. All the food is prepared freshly in the effectively extracted, modern and totally open-plan kitchen and it’s quite remarkable to see the wonderful creations taking shape right before your eyes.


The restaurant was almost full by this time and, as the food and wine flowed, the atmosphere was building superbly; it was lively, energetic and great fun. As Steven flitted from table to table taking plaudits or answering questions about some of his more exotic creations, I relaxed and sipped a rather fine Hibiscus Kiss (think Pimms on steroids!). But it was time to push on, and once again from the Entrée menu, Beef Tartare with cured egg yolk, wild sorrel and purslane, as well as a dish of roasted scallops with cauliflower, potato and chicken jus were whisked into the firing line.

I simply adore scallops and can be quite picky, but these were cooked to perfection. The rich jus and cauliflower enhanced the soft, layered flavour of the scallops, turning an already wonderfully cooked ingredient into a spectacular dish. The Beef Tartare was tasty too and one of several non-fish dishes Steven has created. I didn’t try it, but the Black Angus Sirloin, roasted onion, red wine sauce from the main course menu, looked simply divine.


So onto the mains… Steven had already explained his early fascination with contrasting textures and how he recreated the style, and his gorgeous and stunning Crispy Red Snapper with carrot pickle, almonds and sherry vinegar showcased his success.

The bright orange of the pickled carrots combined with the crispy caramelised skin and the creamy white flesh undoubtedly created a fabulous tableau, but pickled carrots and snapper? I really didn’t know what to expect, but the pairing was incredible. The crispy skin, supported by the crunch of the almonds, the contrast of the flesh and the vinegar was an epiphany! And perhaps only then did I fully grasp the concept which the chef had earlier explained.


Urchin, for Steven, is the next step professionally, and it has been designed to be somewhere to come with friends and family. It’s a place to enjoy incredible food, great wine, or take a delicious cocktail or two, but to do so and feel like you’re dropping in on him at home. We’ll certainly be popping by again soon.



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