Shellfish in Tasmania Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Tasmanian shellfish
Tasmania country

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson And Roger McShane
Address: Tasmania
Country: Australia

Tasmania's clean sea-water is home to fine fish, especially shellfish. Fresh rock lobster (variously male or female, depending on the season) is plentiful for most of the year, although always expensive. The season closes briefly in September and October.
You may find lobster available fresh, out of season. If that's the case, it means they have been kept in tanks. They no doubt taste very good but we're happy to live without lobster for two months of the year. Somehow a tank seems an inglorious end for these fine creatures. Tourists need to be aware that most Tasmanian establishments overcook their lobsters so that the flesh is usually dry and uninteresting. An exception, when it is open, is the Apsley Gorge café in Bicheno.
King Island's massive crabs are wonderful. Unfortunately they all seem to go to the mainland where they are eagerly snapped up by restaurateurs, so they hardly ever appear on Tasmanian restaurant menus. They are also hard to buy to cook yourself. Clams also grow well here, though they too are almost impossible to buy. This is a great pity, because they are delicious raw or in a simple sauce with pasta.
Mussels are more readily available, especially the farmed variety produced by Spring Bay Seafoods at Triabunna.
Oysters grow very well in Tasmania, which is justly famous for their quality. In fact, Tasmania was the first Australian state able to meet the stringent requirements required by the Americans, and Tasmanian oysters are now imported live into the USA.
Most Tasmanian oysters are the Pacific variety but you can sometimes find the flat natives called Angasi Oysters. At Freycinet Marine Farm on the road into Coles Bay, you can usually sample both.
You will also find good fresh oysters at Barilla Bay (just near the Hobart Airport). If you are a tourist leaving Tasmania from Hobart Airport, they will pack them so that they are suitable for plane travel. We've also bought oysters from the St Helens area split to order at Salty Seas. The Bruny Island Get Shucked crew produce very tasty oysters and these are available at the Sunday Farmers' Market in Hobart.
Sea urchins thrive where there is a combination of cool waters and good food sources, and the best food source of them all is seaweed. The cool waters are also vital because once the sea temperature reaches 18⁰C they begin to spawn which adversely affects their flavour.
Will James from Aquamec Marine has been studying these fascinating bottom feeders for almost twenty years and knows how to ensure that they are delivered to customers in peak condition for eating. He also takes them out to cooler waters if he wants to extend the season. Through the Tasea cooperative he is now supplying markets interstate as well as Hong Kong and Japan.
He maintains three marine concessions on Tasmania's East Coast overlooking Mercury Passage and Maria Island beyond.
Tourists should be aware that there are currently no commercial prawn fisheries in Tasmania (although prawns are widely dispersed around the island) so any you find here will have come from a long way away and will not be like eating the real thing fresh from the water.
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