13 Oct 2017
South Sea Supper
Stewart Island wears two hats, and the other one, we tourists discovered, is fishing. Seafood is big here. And rightly so. Fresh and delicious, we munched our way through plates of fish and lobsters and shellfish. There were even paua – a sort of abalone – pies on sale at the supermarket.
“Blue cod,” Jennifer sighed, “is the best! You have to eat it here because they freeze it to send it to the mainland, and it’s not as good after being frozen.”
I am here to report that Blue Cod in the South Sea Hotel is tasty, well presented, and a bargain. In fact all the food there was excellent in both taste and price. Not your gourmet fine dining, for sure, but well above the standard “pub grub”.
There are even a few menu options that vegetarian Jay could order. I must write some more about the challenges of getting her through the Midwest on our Route 66 adventure.
I ate every morsel of my blue cod. Across the table from me, Fiona ate every last skerrick of her meal and her husband’s. Tom had ordered the lobster, pronounced it a meal fit for a king, and then saw his queen spend a happy half hour cracking the legs and claws to get out the best bits.
Others had blue cod and chips, Cajun blackened salmon, Dave had a plate of ribs that was a tower of meat, there were some fabulous menu items. In fact, we returned on Sunday night for another dinner. And the place was packed out both times.
The South Sea Hotel is the only hotel in Oban, which in turn is the only town on Stewart Island. Dining – and drinking – options are limited here, especially after dark. In some places, they’d take advantage and jack up the prices. Not at the South Sea!
It’s also perfectly situated on the edge of Halfmoon Bay. Sit at one of the big front windows – or outside when the weather is clement – and you can see everything that goes on in the town, because the main street is just outside. Every arrival on the ferry, every person walking past, even every air transfer, because the passenger terminal is here in town, rather than out at the airfield.
Anything that goes on here, the people at the pub know about it.
BookCrossing meet and drink
Good local wine and beer washed the food down. Well, South Island beer and New Zealand wine, to be honest. Stewart Island isn’t known for its vineyards.
We sat down and, being BookCrossers, started piling up books in the middle of the table. Albert the skeleton sat at the end, wearing Jay’s hat, and attracting attention from the locals. Clearly, he was having a ball!
As were we all. Good company is what makes BookCrossing, and though it’s supposedly all about the books, it’s not. It’s all about the BookCrossers. Generous, quirky, literate folk.
We generally do well in trivia quizzes, and we were looking forward to winning the weekly Sunday pub quiz, as once graced by royalty. The quizmaster on that memorable occasion was also the BookCrosser who had initiated this current unConvention.
On that note, we fielded two teams and had a lot of fun. There is nothing quite like a well-run quiz in a pub that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with equal numbers of locals and tourists all out to enjoy the experience.
Our team managed to score an extra point by having two members with the same names as the quizmasters – Jay and Dave. Sadly, this made no difference to our final placing in the event. ‘Nuff said.
Friday the Thirteenth – BookCrossing Style!
There was a reason we were sitting down to dinner with a skeleton, and once we had finished our desserts (and licked the bowls clean in some cases), we gathered up our books and bones.
During their afternoon trek around the island, Jennifer and Lesley had identified a good tree. One that wasn’t too tall, had lots of low-hanging branches, not a great deal of foliage, and stood in a reasonably accessible spot.
Possibly the only tree on the island that wasn’t a rainforest canopy type – tall and leafy – it stood in an elevated position near the church. We blundered our way up in the dark, grateful for the occasional passing headlights but apprehensive of what the locals might think about a bunch of drunks wandering around with a skeleton.
As it happened, we found out the next day, but that’s another story.
Book-trees are a bit of a tradition with BookCrossers. At least the ones I hang out with. We package some books up in ziplock bags, tie them with strings from a likely looking tree, and await results. Usually, they are books suitable for children, because kids delight in such things, and BookCrossers tend to be young at heart.
Albert was propped against the trunk while we tried to tie knots in the dark, and when the cameras came out to film the result, the excitement was too much and he keeled over.
But it was a satisfying finish to our Friday Thirteenth beginning to a great weekend.
Main image credit: Ben Bowes
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