Events Food

Oysters at the House

The best of local oysters and NSW wine came together under blue skies and the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the annual Oysters at the House.

Oysters at the House
Oysters at the House

The event, which has been running for eleven years, was an initiative of the department of primary industry to reinvigorate the oyster industry after the QX disease in the Hawkesbury wiped it out in one season.

Set at the Opera Kitchen, visitors exchanged tokens for freshly-shucked oysters and wine tastings. Two masterclasses were presented by John Susman, Simon Marnie and Lyndey Milan, including demonstrations on how to shuck oysters and pairing various oysters to local wines from NSW.

Oysters at the House
L-R: John Susman, Lyndey Milan, Simon Marnie

Types of Oysters

Australia grows three types of oysters.

1. The Sydney Rock Oyster is grown along 1500 km along east coast of Australia and is endemic to the waters. They spread from south east Queensland to the Victorian border and their flavour reflects the husbandry of the grower.
2. The Pacific Oyster is not native to Australia but originates from Hiroshima in Japan. It is prolifically farmed, have a creamy mouthfeel and often eaten full of spawn.
3. The Angasi Oyster is native and one of the original oysters in Australia with a round, flat shell that resembles a clam.

How to Shuck Oysters

It is generally faster to front shuck an oyster. Hold with ear facing out, position in tea towel, insert knife at 15 degrees, wrist twist, slide knife to 2 o’clock position and twist.

How to Store Unopened Oysters

Unopened rock oysters can keep for 2-3 weeks at 14-18ºC. Pacific Oysters are best kept in the coolest part of the fridge, in the crisper. Angasi oysters should be kept in the vegetable crisper with weight on top so they don’t open.

Oysters are best served at ambient temperature not on ice. They can be put under ice for 20 minutes which makes them easier to shuck and takes the edge off top the notes of oyster.

Masterclass 1

The first masterclass, six oysters were presented, paired with Oakvale Sparkling Apple Cider 2012, Scarborough Chardonnay 2009 from the Hunter Valley and Freeman Wines Rondo Rose 2012.

Smoky Bay Pacific Oyster (South Australia) comes from the West Coast of the Eyre Peninsula They grow in a large shallow bay with calm waters dominated by shallow stretches of sea grass, sand flats and mud flats which contribute to their lettuce/cucumber flavour on back palate.

St Helen’s Pacific Oyster (Tasmania) comes from Moulting Bay in the St Helens region of North East Tasmania. It gets its food supply from both the rivers that run into the bay and the tidal flows from the Tasman Sea. The oyster is creamier, more vegetal due to eating more vegetation, with some tannins on the back palate.

Nambucca River Sydney Rock Oyster (NSW) has one of the best rock oyster growing regions in Australia due to the short and fast flowing river being fed by run-off from the rains. The oyster has a deep colour, a greenish hue which is a reflection of the vegetation in the river. There is no intensity of salt, the texture is a little chewy and has a slight nutty flavour.

Oysters at the House
Masterclass 1 Oysters

Womboyn Lake Sydney Rock Oyster on the south coast is the furthest southern spot that oysters are grown. They are fed by rivers from the snowy mountains and have perfect growing conditions. The oyster is slightly milder in flavour, a little fruity and finishes with a long, sweet back palate.

Moreton Bay Sydney Rock Oyster comes from South East Queensland and grows in warm waters. This is a unique oyster that is full of flavour and picks up mineral characteristics.

Angasi Oyster from Pristine Oysters, is difficult to find in stores. These are very fragile, slow-growing and they spawn out of water. Like Belon in France, it has vegetal and mineral characteristics and a lot of depth of flavour.

Masterclass 2

The second masterclass had nine oysters paired with Logan Vintage ‘M’ Cuvee 2009, A Retief Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 and Ross Hill Pinnacle Pinot Gris 2011.

St Helen’s Lease 65 Pacific Oyster Farm (Tasmania) is creamy, sweet, lettuce-like with a saltiness. At the time of tasting, it had two more weeks before it spawns.

Smoky Bay Pacific Oyster from the west coast of South Australia, has vegetal notes, of lettuce, watercress and summer cucumber.

Coffin Bay Pacific Oyster (South Australia) has a clean front palate, more salty than creamy and smells of the sea.

Broken Bay Pacific Oyster (NSW) has a lot of texture and combines the flavour of Pacific and rock oysters. Its unique flavour is rich, creamy and buttery in the mouth.

Oysters at the House
Masterclass 2 Oysters

Manning River Sydney Rock Oyster from the north coast has two entry points, good water flow and sub-tropical region of northern NSW results in a sweeter, more delicate, intense oyster with melon characters and citrus notes.

From the far south coast of NSW, the Wanpengo Lake Rock Oyster has a briny zing, and goes well with a young Hunter Semillon, a, classic wine for rock oysters according to John Susman.

Camden Haven Sydney Rock Oyster had a touch of green almond, cucumber, and is a “cracking example of rock oysters”.

Pambula Lake Sydney Rock Oyster from South Coast has mineral characteristics, slightly vegetal, cucumber and a dry finish. The

Angasi Oyster, served here attached to the top shell, is thicker and meatier.

Oysters at the House
L-R: John Susman, Lyndey Milan, Simon Marnie

Bega Oysters Association

Bega Coast Oysters Inc is the local oyster association for the Bega Valley Shire with four major estuaries:

1. Wapengo Lake Oysters have a crisp flavour, not too creamy and a subtle aftertaste.
2. Merimbula Lake Oysters are creamier, closer to spawning with a colour that changes depending on what they’re feeding.
3. Pambula Lake Oysters have a more briny flavour, less creamy, with a good amount of liquor in the shell.
4. Wonboyn Lake Oysters are lighter in flavour, with a good balance of brine and creaminess.

Oysters at the House
Bega Coast Oysters

Siminis Oyster System

Oysters at the House
Steve Siminis

Steve Siminis has worked for many years and many versions refining the patented Siminis Oyster System. The System allows for fast, clean and most importantly a safe method for restaurants and venues to open large quantities of oysters. The System is in use at The Morrison Restaurant and Bar where oysters are shucked daily.

A selection of NSW wineries, in addition to those mentioned in the Masterclasses, included Audrey Wilkinson, McLeish Estate, Adina Estate, Chalkers Crossing, Topper’s Mountain Wines, Gundog Estate and Charles Sturt University Winery had a variety of their wines to taste with the oysters along the Opera Kitchen Promenade.

Oysters at the House is supported by NSW Wine and Oysters Australia. A $35 entry fee entitles the person to 10 tokens (1 token = 1 oysters or 1 wine tasting), with additional tokens at $3 each. Masterclasses, which are highly recommended are $25 each.

For a photo gallery of the event, visit Gourmantic on Facebook and “Like” the page.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

Opera Kitchen
Lower Concourse
Sydney Opera House
Sydney 2000


Oysters at the House was held on Sunday 18th November 2012 from 12 noon to 6pm. Gourmantic attended the event including the masterclasses as media guests.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.