ALL You Need to Know about Bluff’s Oysters

ALL You Need to Know about Bluff’s Oysters

New Zealand’s gastronomic scene is famous for its top-notch local produce. But even among the many treasures that the country has to offer, one delicacy stands out—the Bluff oyster. 

Native to the southernmost tip of New Zealand, these molluscs are celebrated for their unique flavour and texture, making them a much-anticipated treat for oyster connoisseurs around the world. 

We’ve done our research and tasted one too many oysters in Bluff (if that’s even possible!) to learn as much as we could about them. Here’s everything you need to know about Bluff’s oysters!

When is Bluff’s oyster season? 

Bluff’s oyster season typically begins in March and extends through to August. These prized oysters are harvested from the cold, clean waters surrounding the town of Bluff, located at the bottom of the South Island.

Bluff oysters, also known as dredge oysters, are fished under very specific conditions. The quotas for catching these oysters are low, ensuring sustainable practices and preserving the quality of the oysters. 

This limited availability makes the Bluff oyster season even more special and eagerly awaited by food enthusiasts.

How do Kiwis celebrate Bluff’s oyster season? 

Kiwis celebrate Bluff’s oyster season with the annual Bluff Oyster & Food Festival, which usually takes place each May. Many people flock to Bluff for the festival, decked out in warm hats and winter clothing, ready to enjoy this cherished seafood delight.

The festival is not just about savouring the rich, creamy taste of Bluff oysters. It’s also an important event for the local community and contributes significantly to the region’s tourism. 

The festival includes a variety of fun events, from oyster-opening competitions to live entertainment, making it a great day out for the whole family.

How do Bluff oysters taste?

Bluff oysters are renowned for their distinctive flavour profile. They have a stronger, brinier flavour compared to Pacific oysters, with a delicate balance of sweetness and saltiness. 

Their creamy texture and metallic finish further enhance their appeal. This flavour is unlike any other oyster species and is a direct result of the cold, pristine waters of the Foveaux Strait, where they are harvested.

Superior Quality and Texture

Another reason why Bluff oysters have gained global fame is their superior quality and texture. These oysters are larger than the commonly known Pacific oysters and have a creamy, succulent texture. 

The flesh is plump and juicy, providing a satisfying mouthfeel that is highly sought after by oyster enthusiasts.

What are the best ways to eat Bluff oysters?

Let’s explore the various ways you can savour Bluff oysters.

1. Raw: The Purist’s Choice

For those who really want to appreciate the full flavour of Bluff oysters, eating them raw is often recommended as the best method. This allows the oyster’s rich, creamy texture and briny, sweet taste to shine through without any distractions. 

A squeeze of lemon or a dash of red wine vinegar and finely chopped shallots can add an extra dimension to the flavour.

2. Oysters Kilpatrick: A Classic Preparation

Oysters Kilpatrick is a classic way to enjoy Bluff oysters. This preparation involves topping the oysters with a mixture of bacon and Worcestershire sauce before broiling them until bubbly. 

The result is a delicious combination of salty, sweet, and umami flavours that perfectly complement the oysters’ natural brininess.

3. Southern Fried Oyster Sliders: A Modern Twist

For a more contemporary take on Bluff oysters, try making southern fried oyster sliders. This recipe involves coating the oysters in breadcrumbs before frying them to golden perfection. 

They are then served on a brioche bun with a tangy slaw, creating a delightful contrast of textures and flavours.

4. Bluff Oysters Au Gratin: A Gourmet Treat

If you’re looking for a truly gourmet experience, Bluff oysters au gratin is a must-try. This decadent dish involves baking the oysters in a creamy sauce, often infused with flavours like Wakame and blue cheese. 

The result is an indulgent treat that’s sure to impress any seafood lover.

5. Shucking Your Own Bluff Oysters

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, shucking your own Bluff oysters can be a rewarding experience. It gives you the freshest possible taste and allows you to appreciate the oyster in its most natural state. 

Just be careful when handling the oyster knife!

Where to enjoy bluff oysters in Southland? 

If you’re lucky enough to be in Southland during the oyster season, there are plenty of spots where you can enjoy this delicacy. Here are two of our favourites! 

Oyster Cove

Address: 8 Ward Parade, Bluff 9814, New Zealand

  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday to Thursday – 11 AM to 4 PM 
  • Friday to Sunday – 11 AM to 7 PM 

Phone: +64 3 212 8855

If you’re a fan of raw oysters, you can get some at Oyster Cove. Each oyster delivers a burst of the ocean with every bite.

A squeeze of lemon adds a tangy contrast to the sweetness of the oyster, enhancing its natural flavours.

For those who prefer their oysters cooked, the grilled option is also excellent. The heat brings out a smoky richness in the oysters, adding another dimension to their taste.

The Saucy Chef on St Andrew 

Address: 40 St Andrew Street Invercargill, 9810
Hours: Monday to Sunday – 4:30 PM to 10 PM 
Phone: +64 (03) 217 1980

At The Saucy Chef on St Andrew, you have your pick of the Oysters Kilpatrick, baked with bacon and a tangy Worcestershire-based sauce, or the Oysters Mornay, gratinated with a creamy cheese sauce.

Either way, pair your oysters with a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc, and you have a match made in heaven. The crisp, citrusy notes of the wine cut through the richness of the oysters, making each bite even more enjoyable.