Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Salty sea Eyre

Day 4

Port Lincoln

- on our Eyre Peninsula road trip en route to Lock for Australia Day.

Surprisingly, one woke ravenous and we were glad of the breakfast buffet downstairs. There, the iPads worked better. B could download his NY Times; happy chappy. Oddly, we still could not load web pages and most of my mail was void of content.

We took a massive exploratory walk after breakfast - a couple of hours and, Bruce's iPhone revealed, 14,000 steps. Then, we hopped in the car and took a tour of the complex of marinas wherein tuna boats, prawn boats and lobster boats are moored en masse. What a spectacle. I love ships and boats and I was simply awe-struck by this concentration. Those massive working boats with their cranes for lifting nets, their massive industrial decks...the sheer size of them, one after another. A vast dormitory of off-duty working boats. Millions of dollars of fishing fleets, neatly nuzzled into the land . And on the tuna boat wharfs there are glossy quasi-mansions of modern vulgar architectural style. They look like nouvea-riche residences but they would seem to be fronts to vast sheds, presumably tuna processing. Who knew they needed such scale? Further on are ugly marina suburbs. Wealth trumps taste, it seems. And big is not beautiful. Oh well, the people are happy and the seafood is wonderful. Who am I to criticise?

On my mission to eat as much local seafood as I can on this trip, I chose the Peacock Thai and Chinese restaurant to see how they dealt with the king fish and prawns. They had a special page of their menu devoted to local seafood. So I had Massoman prawn curry for lunch. It was swoon material. Bruce had chicken. As we were leaving, the fish man was coming through the door, still in his overalls and white rubber boots, bringing the next load of kingfish and prawns. Fresh is the word.

Another Port Lincoln claim to fame is a winning race horse. Makybe Diva. She was owned by Tuna baron Tony Santic, named after three of the women who worked for him (taking the first to letters from their names - Maureen, Kylie and Belinda) and she won the Melbourne Cup thrice, only horse to do so. She won something like $14 million and is recognised in the international hall of horsey fame. So she has a life-sized statue right there on the foreshore of Port Lincoln.

The Tunarama festival was on this weekend and the fairgrounds and stalls were setting up in the seafront park. We ambled back to the hotel checking out the events and the shops in the main drag.

When Frank Martin rang to offer to take us out to see his oyster farm at Coffin Bay - 40 minutes by car and an hour or so on the water - we were too wearied by our exertions. He agreed to come to the hotel later in the day and we repaired to the pool deck to lie down and doze. I did a spot of swimming.

Frank came with his wife Kathy, a plastic bag full of unopened oysters and an old bone-handled knife with which to open them. I ordered us drinks from the bar and we settled at a high table out the front of the hotel while Frank opened one after another of his huge, plump oysters. I sucked them out of the shell with no more than a drip or two of lemon juice. They were the knee-tremblers of oyster perfection, my dream oysters, so unbearably fresh, so utterly plump, so sumptuously sensual... Frank, often likened to Paul Hogan, they say, was a talkative fellow with tales to tell. He regaled us. I said very little. I ate oysters. Bruce likes his oysters cooked so he did not have any. Kathy had a few. Frank had one or two. I had a lot. At least 15. The others were on their second drinks. I was still on my first. I was drunk on oysters. Frank and Kathy were exceptionally agreeable souls, close friends of my close friend, Barb. We assumed a certain familiarity and talked on for hours over a few more drinks - until we realised that we had made a table reservation at Di Giorno's, Lincoln's premiere Italian restaurant.

Here, I intended to eat a spaghetti marinara with Boston Bay mussels, prawns, king fish, cockles and squid. But the oysters had made something of a dent on my appetite and pasta was simply not a goer. I chose the simplest fish dish on the menu - king fish on thai salad vegetables with a touch of mirin. How superb. What a brave and wise chef to allow the fish to be itself. It was steamed, I think. Not too much. And just resting on the salad. It was clean and delicate and simply sublime.

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