This is the very first meal I had during my recent trip to New South Wales! We arrived at Sydney in the morning and drove 2 ½ hours to Port Stephens for lunch. I’ve had quite a few seafood platters in Australia and it always has a hot and cold component.
I thought I saw a Moreton Bay Bug at the bottom left of the cold platter and I asked about it. The waitress wasn’t sure so she went to ask the cook, who came back with the answer – it’s a Balmain Bug! It’s also another species of slipper lobster and looks a lot like the Moreton Bay Bug but the Eastern Balmain Bug (officially called butterfly fan lobster) is more common around NSW.
The cold components of the dish are mud crabs, the Balmain bug, plenty of oysters and prawns with a side of salad and fresh fruits. I’ve eaten several seafood platters during my time in Australia and these ingredients are always the same, although sometimes you’ll get a regular lobster as well as the bug.
The seafood items in this platter are all boiled and shocked in ice water so it’s eaten cold and I’ve always like the style of this execution. The oysters are a little small in this case, but they’re all local and not flown thousands of miles away coz oysters don’t taste good after a long journey. This was at Vues on the Bay, a very playfully named Australian cuisine restaurant right in the middle of town. Yup, this is the hub of Port Stephens with a wonderful view of the pier.
Interesting fact: Port Stephens only has one (1) traffic light in the entire township and it’s right in front of this restaurant. The residents petitioned very hard against it since they didn’t want any traffic lights in their town. :)
This being Australia, the hot component of the seafood platter has plates laden with thick cut chips, like the ones you’ll get at the local fish and chip shop, and calamari (battered and fried squid). I like how modern Australian cuisine don’t do it in ring shapes but either cigar shaped (very nice) or thick curly (like this one).
I love the calamari here, it’s so fresh that you don’t get the off-putting taste of squid and it’s soft and practically dissolves in your mouth the moment you bite into it.