I grew up in Sydney, so Sydney Rock oysters are close to my heart. I love their crystal clear, sea-spray aromas and intense umami flavours. My discovery of the joys of other bivalves has been driven by my international travels – pre-Covid, of course.
Pacific Oysters with Tetsuya’s Oyster Vinaigrette + 2021 Henschke Julius Riesling, Eden Valley, A$47
My preference for Sydney Rock over the meatier Pacific oysters was swayed by John Susman the sea man behind the FishTales podcast. He delivered a sack of unopened Pacifics and a bottle Tetsuya’s Oyster Vinaigrette. The instructions were simple: put the oysters on a hot barbecue and wait for the top shell to pop open. Drizzle some of Tet’s vinaigrette and slurp it down. The wine was Julius Riesling then, and I recommend it now – clear, bright and zesty.
Belon oysters at Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse + NV Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Brut, Tours-sur-Marne, France, A$114
My last trip to France was in September 2019. I ended up with a spare day in Lyon (not a bad thing) before heading to Beaujolais. Late morning found me at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse markets. The seafood kiosk was heaving with locals gorging themselves on all manner of fresh produce. Lunch was booked for 1pm – so an aperitif seemed fair. I chose Belon oysters from two different locales. Shucked to order on a bed of ice with buttered rye bread and a glass of Laurent Perrier. Bliss.
Spaghetti Vongole Camogli north of cinque terre + 2021 Trentham Estate The Family Sangiovese Rosé, Murray Darling, A$18
Camogli is a fishing village just north of the Cinque Terre. A late arrival on a dark, rainy night saw us struggling to find our hotel. Once our bed was secured, food was essential and there was an outdoor café nearby. It looked ordinary but turned out to be excellent. I had spaghetti vongole for the first time, now it’s a family staple. A rosé is my go-to match, the Trentham’s use of sangiovese adding an Italianate twist. PS. The next day was clear and sunny, revealing Camogli’s postcard pretty harbour encircled by brightly coloured houses.
Scallops with capsicum, fennel, tomato, red onion + 2018 Angel Rodríguez Martínsancho Verdejo, Rueda, Spain, A$33
I wrote the wine column for Gourmet Traveller in the early 2000s. Kathy Snowball was the food editor and I regularly matched wines to her recipes. This is one I still cook. The compote of capsicum, fennel, tomato, red onion spiked with Spanish smoked paprika can be pre-prepared and the scallops take just a few minutes to cook. This juicy verdejo is crunchy and clean with a pleasing grip to mop up the gutsy compote.
Golden Century pipis in XO sauce + 2019 Ocean Eight Pinot Gris, Mornington Peninsula, A$36
As I write this, there’s news that Sydney’s Golden Century might be closing. The ‘must have’ dish at the late-night institution was the pipis in XO sauce. Regardless, the Wongs’ nearby XOPP restaurant is still open and (as the name implies) the pipis in XO sauce are a feature of the menu. So too, is Michael Aylward’s luscious pinot gris. It’s the perfect palate cleanser and offered by the glass at XOPP.
Mussels a la Brussels at home + Sydney Brewery East Coast IPA, 7.0%, A$6
On my only visit to Brussels, I headed to the Grote Markt to sample the famed Belgian mussels. I picked a classy establishment and ordered the bivalves. The thoughtful waiter advised they were ‘not in season’. I was disappointed. Back at home, I taught myself how to cook mussels ‘a la Belgian beer’. A Trappist style beer is the usual drink but I’ve discovered Sydney Brewery East Coast IPA is a worthy (and local) substitute.