It’s Peak Oyster Season – Here’s Where To Find Them
From Plankton to Plate: The story of Edible Oysters says deposits of middens collected by indigenous Australians along the NSW South Coast have been carbon-dated to as far back as 10,000 B.C. Given the Japanese discovered this delicacy as early as 2000 BC and the Romans and Greeks began cultivating them from around 100 BC, it’s clear this is a food that will never go out of fashion. Here in NSW, we are obsessive over our oysters and our all-consuming passion for the bivalve mollusc has since spawned countless oyster bars, $1 an oyster happy hours and places to enjoy boozy lunches of oysters and bubbles. Here are six of the best places to source oysters from in NSW and where to enjoy them along the coast.
The Clyde River, near Bateman’s Bay
This seaside village is a popular spot for cosmopolitan Canberrans who like to loosen their neckties for the weekend and converge in convoy on the Eurobodalla. The pretty township sits at the glittering entrance of the Clyde River, which widens into a broad estuary that is fed by nutrient-rich waters that produce both Pacific and Sydney rock oysters. Oysters from the Clyde River Estuary are known for being both salty and sweet and are found on menus at some of the State’s best restaurants. Oyster anoraks should book an Oyster Kayak Tour, which wends its way upriver to meet fourth-generation growers, the Rossiters.
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: Wray St Oyster Shed or Sage Farmers Market.
Wapengo, between Bermagui and Tathra
Wapengo Lake is, according to Australia’s Oyster Coast CEO Mark Allsop, one of the most pristine estuaries in NSW. So it stands to reason then that the oysters grown here in the waterways that are filtered by the waters flanked by the surrounding Mimosa Rocks National Park are pretty special. In addition to being home to Australia’s first certified organic rock oyster farm, the award-winning oysters that are gently plucked out of this river offer a “rich full flavour that hints of minerals, salt and delicate creaminess,” says Allsop.
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: Il Passagio, at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Bermagui
Narooma, on the Far South Coast of NSW
Australia’s seafood tsar, provedore John Susman, is one of the judges at the annual Narooma Oyster Festival, which he believes is one of the best places on the planet to enjoy oysters shucked to order. “The South Coast is such an exciting area for seafood. Rock oysters are endemic to this region and are really unique and very special.” Susman says. Susman says oysters from the Narooma region reflect the marine environment and character of the region, which includes eight or nine estuaries and surrounds. Aficionados should head to Narooma – which is derived from an Aboriginal word that means ‘clear blue waters’ – to try the rare native Angasi oyster, the oyster lover’s oyster and a cousin to the famed Belon oysters from France
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: The Quarterdeck Narooma.
Merimbula, the heart of NSW’s Sapphire Coast
Merimbula Lake, on the so-called Sapphire Coast of NSW, is permanently open to the ocean. Located about 455km south of Sydney, the coastal lake was formed at the end of the last Ice Age, according to Australia’s Oyster Coast. The tidal lake has a narrow mouth and large marine delta and a taste-test of the award-winning oysters is akin to assessing the region’s outstanding water quality. The Sydney rock oysters farmed in these waters are said to benefit from the lake’s refreshing tidal flows, resulting in an oyster that according to Australia’s Oyster Coast‘s tasting notes, has a “firm sweet creaminess with a salty quality”.
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: Wheeler’s Oyster Shed
Shoalhaven River, near Nowra
Succulent sweet oysters have been farmed on the shores of the Shoalhaven River for more than a century. From Plankton to Plate states oyster farming is the oldest and most valuable aquaculture industry in NSW, with an annual production of 70 million oysters worth around $35 million. The beauty of sourcing oysters from the area is that they have “an extensive estuary system with large areas of significant wetlands”. As the sixth largest coastal catchment in the State, AOC says this translates to “Pacific oysters that have a lingering sweetness and Sydney rock oysters that are somewhat creamy in flavour”.
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: Wharf Rd Restaurant & Bar
Pambula Lake, Sapphire Coast, NSW
Pambula is a pristine spot just south of Merimbula on the NSW Far South Coast which was a rich source of food for the people of the Yuin nation, so it stands to reason you’re going to get a mighty fine oyster here. What makes the Pambula-farmed oyster so fantastic is the fresh water that flows down the river to meet with incoming tides from the Pacific Ocean, resulting in the clean clear waters of the legendary lake. The farmers here are committed to keeping the catchment in good condition because that’s what makes the oysters here taste so exceptional.
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: Whale Motor Inn & Restaurant
Wallis Lake, Forster, mid North Coast, NSW
Wallis Lake is a barrier estuary that is also a bustling holiday location over summer. The oysters here are grown in a huge expanse of water that is packed brim-full with nutrients. It has, according to Australia’s Oyster Coast CEO Mark Allsop “an oceanic influence that creates a crisp, briny, full bodied oyster in the warmer months”. Allsop says the Wallis Lake region in Forster is one of his favourite places to go for a plate of oysters and a cold beverage.
Where to enjoy a cheeky dozen: Hamilton’s Oyster Bar
Published 31 July, 2018