https://tableunderatree.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/IMG_2885.jpg30243024Table Under a TreeTable Under a Treehttps://tableunderatree.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/IMG_2885.jpg
Technically, there are only a few weeks left of the Australian summer.
Where has the beginning of 2019 gone? Yes, yes, I know that we’ll still have hot weather for weeks and weeks to come, which is why I feel super-comfortable talking about seafood even if we are half way through February!
For deep-seeded Pavlovian reasons, I always associate summer with seafood and to me, seafood is best when it is super fresh (or, when it’s been pimped somehow and I’ll come back to that in a moment). That’s the reason we don’t run a fresh seafood dish on our meal pod menu.
There’s not much that beats local prawns caught and cooked that morning, piled between two slabs of sourdough bread – with salted butter – and a bit of mayo or tartare sauce. Iceberg lettuce if you’re feeling fancy.
I am actually drooling as I write those words.
That sambo is best eaten sitting at the beach while your skin is equal parts warm, salty and perfumed by sunscreen. Because of the logistics of preparing, packing and delivering our meal pods, I can’t replicate that experience for you, so seafood is one protein I’d love you to source yourself.
“But where do I go?” I hear you ask!
If you’re feeling motivated to cook yourself, you’ll find seafood stalls at some of the markets around the region. Keep an eye open for Noel Baggaley’s Brunswick Seed Oysters at markets around town (New Brighton, Byron and Mullum). Shucked while you wait.
For an adventure, head down to the old fishermen’s co-op at Brunswick Heads to buy straight from the trawler. While the co-op closed a few years ago, you’ll find the Nellie M selling prawns and whatever fish they’ve caught right off the boat. They’re not there every day, so check the Facebook feed to see whether you’re in luck.
Otherwise, my advice would be to hit a fishmonger to see what is looking fresh, good and plentiful. Ask what is local and try something you haven’t tried before.
In Byron you can go to the Bay Seafood Market on Lawson Street, which I’ve always found to be great, while further north there’s options at Kinsgcliff and Tweed Heads.
To the south, Ballina is home to two options, and I’ve heard people argue in favour of both as the best option. There’s Ballina Fishermens Cooperative, and just down the road a little, Northern Rivers Seafood. They’re close enough that you could have a look at both to see what takes your fancy, but for what it’s worth, Northern Rivers Seafood is my usual haunt.
Further south again, both Evans Head and Yamba are home to their own fishermen’s co-ops.
But what about if you just want to eat some great seafood around here? You’re spoilt for choice really.
It’d be impossible not to mention the iconic Fish Heads at Byron Bay. Talk about location, location, location – but they back it up with quality and taste. Get some takeaway and go sit on the beach with a cold beer or wine. Technically it is an alcohol free zone, but that seems to be largely ignored, at least if you’re well-behaved! Super-fresh fish, and I highly recommend the salt and pepper squid.
Grilled fish and calamari tacos
Fish tacos are always popular in this region and there’s plenty of places offering them including Chihuahua tucked away in the Feros Arcade and the always popular Ozymex. I haven’t been yet, but Chupacabra in Suffolk Park is getting rave reviews left, right and centre.
Shelter at Lennox Head does clever and delicious things with all kinds of different things, including seafood.
But back to the idea of pimping fresh seafood…
The two must-try seafood options I’d push you to try are actually not fresh! But they are both utterly delicious.
Shuck Oysters is run by Lucy Ashley, a woman who clearly knows her molluscs. She makes, among other things, a smoked oyster pate that is incredible. She’ll give you some ideas on how to use it, but my classic option is just to schmear it on a cracker, a Byron Bay Cracker if you can, or a good bit of Heart Breads sourdough and enjoy. Shuck Oysters has their own outlet in Ballina, or you’ll find Lucy Sunday mornings at Ballina markets.
And apparently I like smoke, because the other seafood you shouldn’t leave the Northern Rivers without eating is anything from Damian at The Bay Smokehouse. We do use his smoked fish and rillettes in our meal pods because of course smoking is ye-olde-worlde preserving at its very best. His fish is phenomenal, succulent even, and the rillette is just on another level. You can try them in our fettuccini with smoked fish and zucchini or Sundowners pods.
Smoked fish and pasta – match made in heaven
I shouldn’t say this, but even if you don’t order one of our pods, grab some of his fish if you see him at markets around the region. It’s that good.
Have I missed any? Have you found a local gem you think I should have included? Let me know if there’s a glaring hole in my seafood repertoire!
Whatever seafood you choose, just make sure it comes from real people making real food at real places.