With a large balcony typically heaving with customers, the Oyster Inn has a roadside allure that draws you upstairs even if you’re not in the business of having lunch; which could actually pan out for the best, seeing it also happens to quadruple as a restaurant, a boutique hotel, a retail shop and a sometimes gig venue.
While we can’t vouch for the last three, the restaurant is highly pleasant. A table outside on the balcony is the quintessential dining or drinking position: to be seen from the main street (if you’re into that kind of thing), or, more importantly, to take in views over the beautiful Hauraki Gulf. The inside is equally as charming with a widespread blanket of crisp white paint and fishing paraphernalia on the walls.
The aquatic theme continues on the menu with appearances from a whitebait sandwich, swordfish ceviche, king salmon, local gurnard and market fish. The Inn’s namesake leads the way. Oysters are available in four varieties: the classic Bluff and the slightly smaller, locally bred Te Mataku (both served fresh with chardonnay and shallot viniagarette), plus grilled Clevedon served Kilpatrick (cheese, Worcester sauce and bacon), and battered with wasabi mayo.
While the fresh oyster selections are a great way to freshen up your palate, the five spice lamb ribs are the show stopper and will excite your mouth in a whole different way altogether. Slow cooked for 12 hours and then flash fried to give a crispy texture, the meat falls off the bone as you lift each morsel to your mouth. What remains will be quickly devoured and the accompanying creamy sauce mopped up until the final drop.
The main meals didn’t leave quite the same impression. The pork belly, while tender, was missing the crispy texture that lifts the classic dish from 0 to 100; though it was never actually mentioned in the menu description so they get away with it this time. It came with a subtle and oddly yellow carrot puree and crisp seasonal vegetables to freshen it up. The fish of the day was hapuka and came out perfectly cooked, though was reasonable plain by itself; it was thankfully brought to life by the accompanying bed of citrus infused buckwheat and yogurt.
In the drinks department there’s a good amount of island wine - ticking off Man O War, Kennedy Point, Poderi Crisci, Obsidian and Miro wineries - French champagne, mainstream beer and craft varieties, classic cocktails and a summery house-made sangria made with Rose, apple, pear and cucumber.
And if the drinks become all too overwhelming, there are rooms available to sleep it off.