Shuck me an oyster frenzy

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Queenstown-based former All Black halfback Justin Marshall did 72. 

His brother-in-law Queenstown bar baron Mike Burgess topped that with 76 – all in a three-hour sitting. 

Marshall and Burgess were among about 45 Queenstown Bluff oyster lovers able to tuck into the first batch of the season on Tuesday thanks to a local restaurant. 

Steamer Wharf’s Pier 19 organised delivery of a whopping 160 dozen of the Southland delicacy fresh from the boats at Bluff harbour to celebrate the season opening. 

The restaurant put on a special all-you-can-eat long lunch for $99 – and the crowd necked more than 120 dozen oysters between them. 

Bluff-based shucker Norman Irwin – who’s been prizing open oyster shells for 35 years – was on hand to show the locals how it’s done. 

Pier 19 co-director Karen Hattaway, who had a go at shucking herself, says: “There were quite a few people trying to shuck. We were counting people’s fingers at the end of it.” 

If the shucking was a bit hit-and-miss, the oysters themselves hit the spot. 

Hattaway says they were incredibly fresh. 

“Your traditional Bluff oyster – salty, luscious and creamy.” 

Queenstown landlord John Stevenson says they were bigger and better than last year. 

“Any bigger and they would have had to come in little cabins to sleep in.” 

It’s the first time Queenstown’s Pier 19 has hosted a celebration of the Bluff oyster season opening – joining Auckland Viaduct restaurant Soul which traditionally hosts a similar celebratory lunch. 

Hattaway says she and Pier 19 co-director Grant Hattaway plan to do the same thing next year.