The waters of Western Australia have a justified reputation for world-class fresh seafood. A prime example is the Leeuwin Coast Albany rock oyster, a firm local favourite that’s growing in demand on a national level.

Best of all, this specific oyster is in season right across summer and early autumn. “We wait all year for our own WA oysters,” says Melissa Palinkas, chef and owner of both Young George and Ethos Deli & Dining Room in East Fremantle. “There are oysters all over Australia, but in WA it’s really exciting for us to get Albany rock oysters. They’re absolutely beautiful.”

These bivalves are grown in the picturesque beachside city perched at the state’s southern tip, and are at their peak from early December through to March. Directly north-east of Albany’s centre sits Oyster Harbour, a generous inlet where the seawater from the Southern Ocean meets the river waters of the King and Kalgan Rivers which flow into Emu Point.

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“It’s where the river meets the sea,” Palinkas says. “You get the perfect combination of what the oysters eat. That’s what makes them so sustainable: you don’t really have to do much to them. They filter the ocean and feed off what’s in there.”

That perfect positioning also gives Albany rock oysters their special flavour. “They mimic the taste of the sea grasses and sea succulents in the waters of where they grow,” Palinkas says. “That’s encapsulated in the taste. It’s what they’re feeding on around the harbour, and what’s in the water.”

Palinkas gets to eagerly select her favourite oysters each season – the cream of the marine crop. She’s always looking for a plump, creamy oyster with a nice frill around the outside. The size should be a good mouthful, but not overly large.

Palinkas serves oysters regularly at Young George, and she soon will at Ethos too. As for how best to prepare and serve them, she’s in no doubt. “I think natural is the way forward,” she says, “because you get the real flavour of the oyster.”

“Because they come in live, they’re still filled with seawater. When you open them up, they’re at their most pristine. They’re just delicious like that.”

Of course, certain condiments can accentuate the oysters’ natural flavours, whether you’re dining out or shucking and serving them at home. You can’t go wrong with gently flavoured vinegar, a simple squeeze of lemon or even a hot sauce vinaigrette. Palinkas likes to go a step further and prepare a pine needle mignonette inspired by Oyster Harbour’s tree-lined shoreline.

As for what pairs best with them, Palinkas often reaches for a glass of bubbly from the Great Southern wine region, which encompasses Albany and the surrounding area of southern Western Australia. She also recommends anything spritzy, or a crispy riesling. Just make sure it’s something light that won’t overpower the oyster’s delicate briny flavours.

It’s not just the standout taste and breezy versatility that Palinkas values in Albany rock oysters. Their geographical proximity to Perth and Fremantle means that they don’t rack up too many air miles, which aligns with her long-time focus on sustainability. She has been working with premium WA shellfish grower Leeuwin Coast for three years, ensuring that her seafood is as local as it is delicious.

That’s definitely part of their appeal, as is the oysters’ indelible connection to where they were grown. As more people across Australia discover the distinctive beauty of Western Australian seafood, Albany rock oysters will continue to flourish. “I’ve seen them on menus in other states for sure,” Palinkas says. “There is a demand for them, because they’re unique and they do taste different. And they’re from WA.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Harvest Road.