Food & Wine

Between a rock and a taste place – this year, take the Narooma Oyster Festival home

Alex Rea 1 May 2020
Close-up of oyster.

With the Narooma Oyster Festival cancelled for 2020, the delicious delicacies can be delivered to your home. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

For lovers of the NSW South Coast, the taste of freshly shucked oysters might be the most evocative taste. However, oyster aficionados from the across the state’s southeast may have missed their fill because of the past summer’s bushfires and now COVID-19 restrictions. With the Narooma Oyster Festival cancelled this year, oyster lovers are encouraged to enjoy their fill at home this weekend.

The first weekend in May usually hosts the festival at Wagonga Inlet, Forsters Bay, attracting thousands of people in celebration of the not-so-humble mollusc. The event draws foodies, chefs and the global media, and showcases the region’s natural, clean quality produce, chefs, and rich artistic and cultural talents.

Although people are currently isolating at home and restaurants are temporarily closed, the oyster supply is plentiful.

“The oysters are delicious this year – creamy, plump and there are plenty of them,” says Narooma Oyster Festival chair Cath Peachey. “They certainly didn’t get the memo that the festival has been postponed to next year.

“We want people to enjoy oysters at home this year as if they were at the festival experiencing Oyster Alley. It’s a way we can get behind our oyster farmers and mark what would have been the 2020 festival.”

Chef Paul West holding an oyster at a South Coast estuary farm.

Australian chef and TV presenter Paul West will present a documentary on the Narooma Oyster Festival on May 2. Photo: Supplied.

People missing out on the festival weekend are encouraged to buy NSW South Coast oysters from their favourite local oyster farmer to enjoy at home while watching a special documentary featuring Australian celebrity chef and documentary host Paul West.

The Narooma Oyster Festival documentary will be released on Saturday 2 May and can be viewed for free via the festival’s website and official Facebook page. It features Paul visiting oyster farmers from NSW South Coast estuaries at Clyde River, Wagonga Inlet, Pambula Lake and Merimbula.

“The Far South Coast is one of Australia’s most magnificent landscapes with an abundance of tidal lakes and estuaries, each which produces a unique expression of the rock oyster,” says Paul.

“In collaboration with the Narooma Oyster Festival, we shot a short documentary visiting four key waterways in a seaplane to pull oysters straight out of the water and taste the difference firsthand.”

Two girls working at a stall at the 2019 Narooma Oyster Festival.

A stall at the 2019 Narooma Oyster Festival. The festival has been cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

Cath says: “A massive thank you also to our festival visitors, many of who have transferred their accommodation bookings to the 2021 date.

“It is a terrific show of commitment and recognises all the work our volunteers, stallholders, partners and event team put into the 2020 festival.

“I’ll be kicking back at home with Wagonga Inlet rock oysters while watching the documentary on 2 May. I hope you do, too.”

The Narooma Oyster Festival has solid community backing, partnering with Australia’s Oyster Coast, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Club Narooma, Whale Coast Realty and Southern Phone.

The festival board is on track to position the NSW South Coast as a foodie destination, and Narooma as the rock oyster capital of Australia.

Group of people smiling and holding oysters at the 2019 Narooma Oyster Festival.

Attendees enjoying the 2019 Narooma Oyster Festival. Photo: Facebook.

So where can you buy these slippery little shuckers?

Visit the Narooma Oyster Festival website for a list of farmers selling their NSW South Coast oysters directly to the public.

Oysters are couriered from the coast every day so you can also ring the farm gates and request a special delivery.

In Canberra, Narooma Seafood will have Narooma oysters for sale at the Capital Region Farmers Market on Saturday 2 May, and at the Southside Farmers Market on Sunday 3 May.

When enjoying oysters at home, why not make a day of it? Hold your own shucking competition? Put together a tasting selection of oysters from the various estuaries? Try out a few different presentation styles?

The Narooma Oyster Festival will be back in 2021, with the Community Night and Long Table Dinner taking place on Friday 30 April next year and the main event happening on Saturday 1 May.

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