Surrounded by water, Tasmania is renown for its seafood. Tasmania’s first people gathered shellfish of our beautiful coastlines: abalone, mussels and oysters.
Abalone on a menu is rarefied. Mussels usually come with pasta. But oysters, oysters you’ll find on any self-respecting menu in Tasmania.
My first encounter with an oyster was at the inaugural Ten Days on the Island master class with Stephanie Alexander. A budding foodie at 30 something, I wanted to be all grown up with a palate to match. I eyed it suspiciously, said a short prayer and tried to swallow. It didn’t end well.
Regardless, I hold a healthy respect for these slimy creatures, dug off rocks or more commonly, farmed in oyster beds in coastal estuaries, served with an increasing array of exotic accompaniments. I have my own recipe (see below). I’ve never tried it but the Lovely Deputy says it rates.
After a Sunday run at Seven Mile Beach, we decided to try the Barilla Bay Restaurant. The Lovely Deputy was up for some oysters and I felt sufficiently self-satisfied to justify a big lunch.
The purpose-built centre is home to a restaurant and provedore. Downstairs you can buy plates of oysters or prawns and a glass of chardonnay and eat out on the lawns.
Upstairs, the restaurant looks out through floor to ceiling glass over native flora and on the lower Coal River, Pitt Water estuary and the Barilla Bay oyster farms.
The restaurant has a modern bistro feel. There’s no great intimacy but there is a 180-degree view.
The menu celebrates the oyster. There’s hot and cold shucked selections and plates featuring oysters – salad, tart, broth and pate.
The Lovely Deputy went for the half dozen cold selection which he rated in order as caviar, natural, smoked, beetroot, cucumber and gin and tonic sorbet for $14. The sorbet was too sweet to accompany the salty oyster and he preferred the sea-meat closer to their natural state.
Hooray! There’s a lot more than oysters on the menu.
Lovely chose the grilled squid salad for $16, an attractive and contemporary take on a restaurant standard with the addition of the striking squid ink aioli and pickled golden baby beet.
I had the panko crumbed cod and big chips served with a tomato chutney and tartar sauce, $27. Those big cod-pieces made for filling meal but as a fish, Tasmania has more tasty examples. Check the catch of the day for other options.
We shared the Chocolate Mouxloux, described as a southern French brownie, with the texture of flourless cake risen with beaten egg whites. A deliciously chocolate goo with candied violets, $15 and a very good dessert.
Barilla Bay Restaurant knows how to plate up and service is good and bilingual, a big selling point in an otherwise largely English-centric food scene.
Barilla Bay is a good option for a nice meal, for oyster-lovers and others.
It’s also next door to Hobart’s airport. If you’re visiting, plan your flight around a Barilla Bay lunch before you fly out.
There are farm gate sales 7 days and you can purchase oysters packed to travel interstate. Frozen abalone and prawns are available too.
They recently launched a new product, Candy Ab, wild Tasmanian dried abalone which is gift-wrapped to be reconstituted at home.
Find them at 1388 Tasman Highway, Cambridge.
Call for reservations on 6248 5454.
The restaurant is open 7 days, 11.30 am – 2.30 pm for lunch and early dinners, Friday and Saturday evenings, 5.30 – 8.00 pm.
For their menu and more information, here is there website.
If you’ve got a thing for the oyster, you might want to do a tour. Tours are daily at 11 am.
Seed tomatoes and super-finely dice them and red onion. Add fresh lime juice, a little olive oil, a little red wine vinegar, salt, white pepper and fresh red chilli (or bottled habaneros if you prefer) to taste, sugar to lift the spiciness and plenty of coriander. Keep tasting the pico de gallo until you have balanced your spice, salt and sugar. Top your oysters with a tablespoon and give the left overs to people like This Girl to enjoy with some corn chips.