There’s not much middle ground with oysters. The old adage – love ‘em or hate ‘em – rings true for these bivalve molluscs that have lovers heady with longing and haters comparing them to rancid bodily fluids.
If you’re an oyster lover, it’s pretty easy to know when an oyster isn’t up to scratch. Pre-shucked oysters are far from ideal because they dry out quickly and the flavor becomes dull. So if you’re buying over the counter, ask the fishmonger to shuck them for you as you wait, and if you’re in a restaurant, they should arrive plump, vibrant, buoyant and wet. Here we have a look at some restaurants that get oysters right, every time.
Cumulus Inc., Melbourne
Visit any Andrew McConnell restaurant and be confident in your oyster experience. Cumulus Inc. on Flinders Lane, however, has some of the best variety. The selection of Sydney Rocks is plucked from around the New South Wales coastline. The Pacifics, also on the menu, are an introduced species, and thrive in Tasmania and South Australia. The Rocks are minerally and nuanced, while the Pacifics are gentler in flavour.
The Atlantic, Crown Melbourne
Executive chef Donovan Cooke has access to great suppliers all over the country, and his daily deliveries of all kinds of seafood includes an abundance of fresh, unshucked oysters. It’s easy to lose hours in the bar sipping on a Martini (straight up with an olive) and having the chefs’ in the open kitchen shuck these babies to order. Depending on what’s best on any given day, there’ll be Sydney Rocks from NSW and Pacifics from South Australia and Tasmania to choose from.
The Last Jar, West Melbourne
The Irish know a thing or two about a good oyster. Australian chef Tim Sweeney, of West Melbourne’s The Last Jar, spent a few years in Dublin, and is now all over the good and the great of the Australian oyster industry. The care taken with the oysters at The Last Jar is immediately obvious, just shucked, unwashed (really important for the best flavour and consistency of quality) and voluptuous, the oysters here change depending on availability. They move between Pacifics and Rocks or have them both. This place serves them straight up with lemon – the purists’ preference.
Pure South, Southgate
Pure South is all about Tassie and for oyster fiends, Tassie is all about oysters. The Pacific’s served at this Southgate temple to the Apple Isle are always plump, bright, fresh. The oysters taste of the clear Tasmanian waters, some of the cleanest on the planet. There’s a purity and crispness to the flavour of these, and a taut, delicious texture. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of which part of the state they’re from, the staff here will be happy to fill you in. It gets that detailed.
Crystal Jade, Melbourne
Crystal Jade in Chinatown sells the larger St Helen’s Pacific oysters from Tasmania. They are hefty, meaty samples of oyster flesh and particularly good when steamed, perhaps with soy and ginger. There are smaller oysters available, too, but it’s worth trying one or two of these (big) bad boys.