Finding love in the wake of a fiery devastation

Tathra Wharf … a haven for local fishermen.
Tathra Wharf … a haven for local fishermen.

It was late 2013 that I visited the Blue Mountains not long after they’d been through bushfires described as constituting the worst natural disaster to ever hit the area.

I found plenty of tales of heroism but the overwhelming desire was to get on with the job — which in the case of the tourism industry meant filling beds, satisfying mouths and generally showing people a good time.

All they were missing were the actual visitor numbers.

It was much the same just a few days ago when I drove to Tathra, on the NSW Far South Coast, where the town had recently lost some 70 homes in a most fearsome fire storm.

They’d survived by hanging together as a community, and by selflessly helping anyone who needed help.

The local tourism and fine-food industries weren’t after a hand-out. They just wanted visitors to come back, though some were mighty glad they hadn’t heard all the rumours that spread almost as quickly as the flames had.

At one stage it was rumoured that the fire station itself had been destroyed.

Jo Rodely … glad she hadn’t heard the rumour of the fire station next door burning down.

Jo Rodely … glad she hadn’t heard the rumour of the fire station next door burning down.

Jo Rodely, who’s been running Tathra Oysters in partnership with her husband Gary for 30 years, is quite happy not to have heard that one on the day.

“It definitely would have scared me. The station is straight across our back fence, and it would almost certainly have meant we’d lost our home and our business.”

And Tathra Oysters is a business that the town should be proud of.

It sells directly to some of Sydney’s top restaurants, and has received accolades from the likes of TV cooking-show guru Curtis Stone and renowned Sydney chef Greg Doyle, who said: “I love the depth of flavour, slight steeliness and the fact they are not overly meaty. But it is the aftertaste that is memorable — like a refreshing dumping in the surf.”

Oysters from Tathra … the taste of the sea, the texture of clotted cream.

Oysters from Tathra … the taste of the sea, the texture of clotted cream.

Having shared a couple of dozen premium Sydney rockies with the Rodelys in their home, which doubles as a shop, I can vouch for the supreme quality of the product.

They do taste of the sea and they do have the texture of clotted cream. In short, they’re delicious.

I love the ‘oysterometer’ that the Rodelys keep at the entrance to their shop. It very neatly sums up the status of what they’re selling and on my visit was dialled to ‘fat & delicious’ just a category below the top billing of ‘gold-medal busting fat’.

Gary Rodely … running a top oyster business that’s turning Sydney heads and palates.

Gary Rodely … running a top oyster business that’s turning Sydney heads and palates.

I also love Gary’s and Jo’s pride in the town, their pride in being privileged to grow the slow-maturing Sydney rock oyster — a privilege largely reserved to growers along the NSW coast — and their pride in winning the inaugural President’s Medal in the food section at the Royal Sydney Show.

They certainly take very seriously the show’s drive to ‘improve the breed’ and, obviously successfully, strive daily to produce a better oyster.

The shop is at 1 Reservoir St, Tathra, phone 02 6494 1453 or visit www.tathraoysters.com.au 

Definitely worth visiting in Tathra is the historic, deep-water wharf, quite rightly described in the tourism literature as ‘sitting like a pink jewel in a sapphire sea’.

Allen Collins … the fruits of much dedication and hard work are evident at the Tathra Wharf Museum.

Allen Collins … the fruits of much dedication and hard work are evident at the Tathra Wharf Museum.

I had the enormous pleasure of being given a personal guided tour of the wharf’s delightful museum by the president, Allen Collins, and can only have been mightily impressed by the committee’s devotion to preserving a genuine Australian tourism icon — and incidentally to the foresight of those who undertook the enormous task of building the wharf more than 150 years ago.

The Tathra Wharf and its museum are located at the end of Wharf Road, Tathra, phone 02 6494 4363, visit www.tathrawharfmuseum.org 

The wharf is also home to a foodies’ haven in The Wharf Locavore, but that and other dining — and accommodation — tips in Tathra deserve their own article and will just have to wait a few weeks.

For general information about Tathra see www.visitnsw.com 

John Rozentals was a guest of Destination NSW.