Oysters. You either love them or hate them. As I am a new fan – and Mr K is a long-standing, dedicated fan, we headed to the NSW mid-South coast to explore the ‘oyster trail’ and discover where, the oysters we love, come from.
Following the "fresh from the farm gate is best" principle, we visited a number of oyster famers, who were 3rd or 4th generation growers.
There are eight major oyster-producing estuaries on the NSW South Coast: the Shoalhaven, Clyde, Tuross, Wagonga, Wapengo, Pambula, Merimbula and Wonboyn. On this trip, we visited the oyster farmers in the Shoalhaven and Clyde areas.
Our first stop was at the Clyde River, just near Bateman’s Bay. The river was incredibly clear and looked very pure in the Autumn sunshine. We drove down a little dirt track next to the bank of the river to arrive at the "Oyster Shed on Wray Street".
This little aqua shed had no pretentions and you could enjoy your oysters on the spot, at a little table looking out over the beautiful Clyde river – or you could buy them opened or un-shucked, to take with you. We sat down and shared a dozen pacific oysters ($12 for a dozen, opened & eat there). The oysters had a plump, creamy flesh with a fresh sea smell and had a rich, but not over powering, iodine flavour. While it is an incredibly complicated industry, sitting back and looking over this pristine river - oyster farming was beginning to look like a rather romantic notion. We also grabbed a bag of 40 un-shucked oysters ($16 for a bag of 40 unopened) to take with us. That night we steamed the oysters with plenty of ginger, garlic and a few shallots and a little dressing on the side of light soy, lemon and a little brown sugar.
|pacific oysters ($12 for a dozen, opened & eat there) from the Oyster Shed|
Continuing our seafood odyssey, the next day we stopped in Ulladulla, where we visited the Ulladulla Oyster Bar and a little further down the road at Mollymook we enjoyed lunch at Rick Stein’s Restaurant at Bannisters.
The Oyster Bar was opened in 2010 Ewan McAsh (who also supplies the Rick Stein’s at Bannister Restaurant) and was recently sold. The Clyde River Rock oysters at the Bar come freshly shucked, baked, natural with a dressing - from Lime, Tabasco and Coriander Root to bloody Mary or steamed with Ginger, Light Soy and Mirin. You can also buy oysters by the bag, the dozen, or with everything from a Peroni to champagne. There are also special events, such as happy hour as well as live music on certain days. We tried a dozen Sydney Rock Oysters, natural.
At Rick Stein’s Restaurant at Bannisters, although the outside balcony looked inviting, we took a table inside the restaurant – away from the approaching storm. Waiting for us was a bowl of small, Ligurian style black and green olives, which had been marinated with garlic, rosemary and a little fresh lemon. We nibbled on these while perusing the large, one page menu and decide on two mains: the Bannisters Fish Pie ($44) and the Indonesian Seafood Curry with Ling, Squid and King Prawns ($47).
|Indonesian Seafood Curry with Ling, Squid and King Prawns ($47)|
While waiting for our mains, the bread arrived warm from the oven with a nori and regular butter. The nori butter had a lovely salty, ozone taste. The fish pie arrived bubbling with a crispy panko crust and a generous amount of salmon, blue eye trevalla, snapper, scallops, mushrooms and prawns. They were all bought together by a creamy veloute sauce with a good amount of black truffle. The Indonesian curry had plenty of spicy aroma and a large towering pile of swordfish, squid and some very large king prawns, which rested on a warming broth. The curry also came with rice and a bowl of chilli coconut, green bean and bean sprouts. The waiter suggested adding these accompaniments to create your own preferred spice and texture.
Heading back to Sydney the next day, our seafood odyssey was interrupted for a stop at the Contadino Olive Farm. The small signs for olive oil had caught our eye earlier on the drive down the coast and Mr K’s radar for olive oil led us right to the farm door on the way home. The Olive Farm is located at Falls Creek, just 20 minutes south of Nowra and is operated by Bruno and Maria Morabito - who offer a taste of Calabria on the NSW South Coast.
Pulling up into the driveway we were embraced by the smell of grape must and we saw two large wooden barrel style screw wine presses. Mr K remarked that they are just like the ones his father used to use. Sadly for us, the vino nouvello is just for the Morabito family and not for sale – but we are adequately consoled by the range of produce in their farm shed. A wheelbarrow piled high with enormous eggplants greets us and behind it there are barrels topped with vin cotto, a range of olive oils, preserved eggplants, a variety of olives, tomato sauces, dried herbs – it was just like stepping into many of the farm shops on our last trip to Puglia. Mr K asked Bruno about the olive harvest and the olio nuovo is due to be released in early Winter. We will be making a trip back them for new season oil – but in the meantime, we bought an enormous eggplant, some beautiful Ligurian style olives and some of the Morabito’s homemade sugo.
The final stop on the way home was to try the Oysters at Greenwell Point and we headed down Greens Road to the oyster farms. Arriving at the oyster farms, it looked very much like something from America’s deep south, a tumble of corrugated iron and ramshackle sheds. A visit to Greenwell point is definitely a sight to behold. There were large number of farmers on Greens Road, but we were aiming for Jim Wilds’ Oysters, which we had heard about from a best friend. Jim is now a bit of a celebrity – having appeared on Masterchef - and his rock oysters were fantastic, plump and creamy. They could not have been any fresher ($18 per dozen, shucked & eat there).
This little trip down the coast has certainly taught me one thing – I will never buy a tray of pre-shucked oysters again. At all of the various oyster sheds, each farmer shared the same view – oysters are best eaten within about 20 minutes of shucking.
Oyster Shed on Wray Street
Last Shed on Wray St, Batemans Bay, NSW
Ulladulla Oyster Bar
5/107 Princes Hwy, Ulladulla, NSW
Rick Stein’s at Bannisters
191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook NSW
Contadino – the olive farm
1106 Princes Highway, Falls Creek NSW
Jim Wild’s Oysters
170 Greens Rd, Greenwell Point, NSW