Situated right on the waters of Wallis Lake at Tuncurry, Hamilton’s Oyster Bar is a modern black and white beach shack with a busy take-away area out front, where you can park your car, and a bustling restaurant out back, where you can park your boat.
A cool breeze blows throughout the inside and outside dining areas of the restaurant, where holidaymakers relax in the warm sun, eating and drinking the afternoon away in summer holiday mode.
The lunchtime dress code is casual. Outside dining is done at large timber benches, underneath giant blue and white striped umbrellas looking out across the gorgeous blue waters that join Forster-Tuncurry. Inside, the sea breeze is a little lighter. Diners sit at flat-pack assembled timber tables and black and white chairs, underneath giant, orange glowing pendent lights, with views of the water through wall-to-wall bi-fold windows and doors; the space is casual, clean and comfortable with a menu to match.
Obviously, oysters are the occasion for most folks stopping by Hamilton’s, and the menu certainly doesn’t disappoint. Practically all tastes are catered for, from au naturel and other cold styles, including avocado and roe, passionfruit and lime, and the deliciously zesty wakame (edible seaweed) style, with a splash of lime soy sauce.
Hot styles – or “how-to-ruin-a-fresh-oyster-style” – include the house’s own take on Kilpatrick, as well as burnt butter with crispy capers, and oysters in a mornay sauce.
However, since it’s not a stretch to say that Forster-Tuncurry probably grows the best-tasting Sydney rock oysters in the state, your best bet is to order a bottle of Hunter Semillon, a dozen natural ($33) alongside maybe half-a-dozen ($19) of the wakame-style oysters (just to keep things interesting). Even if you don’t eat oysters au naturel, do this and you soon will – I promise.
Of course, it’s not all variations on a Saccostrea glomerata theme. There are many other things to order and eat as well. Being by the sea, there is plenty of seafood; market fish and chips ($35); salt and pepper squid ($17), both served with a fresh leafy green salad; golden and crunchy house-made fish cakes ($19); blue swimmer crab pasta, served with chilli and lime in a white wine sauce ($32); chowder, and a seafood platter for one ($40), although it’s more than enough for two when ordered with, say, a dozen delicious oysters.
The platter is a chilled feast for seafood lovers, featuring oysters and prawns, squid, slipper lobster bug and smoked salmon, with a cocktail dipping sauce. Disappointingly, the bug and the salmon taste like they had spent a bit of time in the deep freeze between the shallow sea and the plate. However, the prawns are sweet, the oysters are fresh and creamy, and the accompanying toasted bread couldn’t have been any more than a day old.
If you don’t like seafood, yet somehow find yourself in an oyster bar by the sea, there’s plenty for lovers of “landfood” to eat and enjoy. Pub classics, like chicken parmigiana ($25), sticky pork ribs ($29), or 300 grams of black angus steak served with vegies and a parmesan mash ($30) will keep you going while your friends and family gorge themselves on dozens and dozens of fresh, local oysters.
A bowl of crunchy, hot chips with rosemary salt ($9) should provide the perfect foil for all that seafood, as will a cold beer or glass of wine from the bar. The wine list has riesling and semillon which is, really, all you need to know, and the cocktail list features lots of holiday-themed concoctions, including a summery Aperol Spritz that goes down well in time with the sun, later on in the warm air of the afternoon. In a town not exactly known for haute-cuisine, Hamilton’s Oyster Bar takes the art of eating of oysters by the ocean to new local heights.
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