Marlborough Sounds' farmed oysters win chef's high praise

19:19, Jul 23 2009
shaun
A MATTER OF TASTE: Shaun Clouston, head chef at Wellington restaurant Logan Brown, can't get enough of the oysters being grown in the Marlborough Sounds.

A leading Wellington chef says Marlborough Sounds farmed oysters are "the next big thing".

Shaun Clouston, head chef of Wellington restaurant Logan Brown, said he had been trialling oysters farmed by Marlborough's Bruce Hearn on and off since about September last year and his customers "loved them".

"They are a beautiful oyster. They look like a little shell, but when you open them up they are a big oyster.

"I could sell them all (10 dozen) on the same day."

He said some diners even preferred them instead of Bluff oysters.

Mr Hearn has been experimenting with commercial oyster farming in the Sounds for some years. The same species is harvested under quota from Furneaux Strait and near Nelson.

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He has successfully trialled harvesting with a mussel harvester to get round the problem of build up on the farmed oysters.

Mr Clouston said fresh oysters from Bluff and the Sounds were like comparing "apples with apples", but he reckoned the Marlborough ones were superior to Bluff pottled oysters.

"If I have a choice between a (pottled) Bluff oyster and a Marlborough oyster I would take Bruce's 10 times over."

He was confident Mr Hearn's oysters would last up to five days if looked after properly.

"Fresh is best."

Bluff's oysters were "a little stronger in flavour and more muscular" and harder to open because of their thick shell, he said: "These ones just pop open."

Meanwhile, Mr Hearn said he has been happy with the results so far, but there is still a way to go before production started in earnest.

But he is set to harvest for commercial purposes from next week, and the oysters would be available in selected restaurants in Auckland, Wellington and Marlborough.

He hoped the oysters would contribute to Marlborough's reputation as a "gourmet province" and he would be "loyal to the region".

Aquaculture New Zealand communications manager Chris Choat was quick to dispel any sense of competition between the oysters from either end of the South Island.

He said Mr Clouston's words were "high praise" because Bluff oysters were one of New Zealand's iconic foods.

The Marlborough Express