Every time I’ve visited Australia, I never get tired or bored of the seafood here. Given that Australia is an island country that’s pretty far removed from the rest of the world, it is not surprising that they have endless flora, fauna, and ocean life that is not only quite unique, but extremely delicious. And being up in Queensland, we’re in the midst of the tropics up here. And when doing research for this Bundaberg trip, I came across this open-air seafood spot that looked interesting called Grunske’s by the River. It’s one of just a small number of seafood processors in Queensland that also sells direct to the public via their little market, as well as via prepared foods and their casual restaurant setup.
Given that shellfish is quite expensive everywhere, we rarely have full-on seafood meals ever. But if you are going to do it, it should probably be here! So we had an indulgent meal at Grunske’s this early afternoon after our arrival in Bundaberg. We decided on the hot and cold seafood platter, which included crumbed local fish bites, sea scallops, and calamari; grilled scallops on the half shell with garlic butter; Coffin Bay (South Australia) oysters, local wild caught massive prawns, Moreton Bay bugs (basically like the lesser known but just as expensive cousins of lobsters!), cooked sand crab, and pear and rocket (arugula) salad. This was all served alongside chips (fries), tartare sauce, seafood sauce, and plenty of lemon wedges.
I still remember the very first time I saw scallops served on the half shell in Australia back in 2012 when I first came. In that moment, I realized I had never seen scallops in their shell, period, ever. So I had no idea they looked like that and was completely stunned, not only by how pretty they looked, but also my own ignorance for not even knowing what a scallop shell even looked like! It presents very well and almost even makes the scallops taste better because they seem fresher and more natural! These scallops were fat, juicy, sweet, and meaty. The sand crab was also surprising; it was served cold, and like Maryland crabs, most of their meat is in the body versus the legs. So I spent quite some time picking out all the meat, and it was definitely worth the effort. The flesh was also very sweet and meaty. The Moreton Bay bugs, as per usual, were delicious and sweet, and the restaurant made it easy to take the meat out of the shells by cutting each bug in half for us, so no cracking was needed. What may have been the most stunning in terms of presentation were the prawns, though. Although we do have easier and cheaper access to prawns/shrimp in the U.S., it is rare to see prawns of this sheer size — almost the size of my whole hand! These were also perfectly cooked and not even a bit rubbery. They were also a very deep, bright orange and red color. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought these prawns were fake, for display and not eating. But that’s how gorgeous and spectacular seafood is here in Australia!