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Oysters?


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I'm a Texas food writer (more at: robbwalsh.com) working on a story about oysters around the world. I am going to the Colchester oyster feast next week and then looking for some historic oyster bars in London.

In Texas and Louisiana, you can find oysters in posh settings, but mostly oysters are still eaten in rough and tumble oyster saloons.

I ate some native Irish oysters at Moran's on the Weir in Clarinbridge near Galway last month and it felt like the same sort of "oyster pub" tradition.

Any thoughts on where to go for a similar experience in London?

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Don't know about London, but at Colchester go to the Company Shed at West Mersea. West Mersea is quite a way outside colchester, but its where the famous oysterns come from. Drive along the sea front/marina and you will come to this shack selling the best oysters you will ever have, with a few tables to eat them at.

IMHO there aren't any original oyster pubs left in London, unlike eel and pie shops. Oysters are now upmarket, even though supermarkets sell them, and so are sold in gastro-pubs and the like. Harrods Food Hall has (or had) an Oyster bar, near the Sushi Bar. More likely to get good oysters at a traditional sea-food restaurant, like Wheelers, or Manzi's.

I remember being taken to Wheelers, maybe twenty years ago by my old Professor, and then master of my College, whose lunch consisted of two dozen native oysters, a bottle of first growth Chablis, and a large cigar. A man of sound judgement...

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Thanks Jackal!

I wish your old professor was around to give me an oyster lecture.

Actually the mayor of Colchester is taking me to lunch at the Company Shed.

I'm stopping over in Whitstable as well on my way to Brittany.

I appreciate your reponse--it being the only one.

No doubt I will need to find a marine biologist for a serious conversation about bivalves.

Foodies over there seem preoccupied with sniffing soiled chefs' whites.

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What do you want to know about oysters?

In the UK there are two main varieties grown: natives, with a smooth shell, which are only in season when ther is an "R" in the month, and Portugese, with a spiny shell that are coarser, grow faster and hence cheaper and can be eaten any time.

Brittany has many different varieties

Myself I prefer Natives, preferably raw, although with a little Tabasco and Shallot vinegar.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Thanks.

I will be careful with my oyster knife. A friend of mine missed his flight to a cooking demonstration recently because he absent-mindedly stuck a chef's knife in his carry on and he got nabbed by security.

What do I want to know about oysters?

My theory is that the old oyster and beer culture, which was associated with native oysters, is dying out all over the world and that a new oyster and fine wine culture, associated with cultivated varieties, is replacing it.

Marine biologists have told me that native oyster fisheries are being phased out in some places because there's no demand. Only old people eat native oysters in France, for instance, because the younger generation have always eaten the cultivated variety.

I am interested in the Colchester oyster feast and the Galway Oyster Festival becase they are two very famous celebrations of native oysters.

I need to understand how Portugese, Pacific, and native oysters are harvested and or cultivated in Britain.

I also hope to find a good museum or library archive of old illustrations, photos and product trademarks of British oysters and people eating them or gathering them for which I can get reproduction rights.

And I wouldn't mind a little company at the oyster bar!

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I'm a Texas food writer (more at: robbwalsh.com) working on a story about oysters around the world. I am going to the Colchester oyster feast next week and then looking for some historic oyster bars in London.

In Texas and Louisiana, you can find oysters in posh settings, but mostly oysters are still eaten in rough and tumble oyster saloons.

I ate some native Irish oysters at Moran's on the Weir in Clarinbridge near Galway last month and it felt like the same sort of "oyster pub" tradition.

Any thoughts on where to go for a similar experience in London?

Robb,

They're far from rough and tumble, but the buildings have some history and are gorgeous: take a dozen at the Bibendum oyster bar (Fulham Road) or at J. Sheekey near Covent Garden. Gows in The City near Finsbury Circus (Old Broad Street?), Green's in Duke Street, Sheelan's in Charlotte Street (Fitzrovia) and WWI-era Bentley's in Swallow Street are dependable, but it's been a while since I made the complete circuit. Scott's (Mount Street, Mayfair near The Connaught Hotel) is extremely expensive and posh. I drink at The Audley down the street, but alas, no bivalves.

And then join us please in Canada--Jamie Gallant at Rodney's Oyster House in Toronto knows every oyster shack extant in the Maritimes, especially PEI; and we have a few on this brawny coast where the beer is cold, the oysters briny and the shuckers jive.

Cheers,

Jamie

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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What do I want to know about oysters?

My theory is that the old oyster and beer culture, which was associated with native oysters, is dying out all over the world and that a new oyster and fine wine culture, associated with cultivated varieties, is replacing it.

I suspect this has to do with the price of the oysters. Similarly the replacement of natives with portugese is economic.

Its been a long time since they were so cheap that the 19th century apprentices petitioned not to be served them anymore.

I've seen a sign in a pub saying " A dozen oysters and Guiness if you are wenching", but this was a modern faux Irish pub

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Another reason why Native oysters (Ostrea edulis[i/]) are not eaten as much in the UK, is that there are far , far fewer of them to eat. The Edinburgh poor ate oysters and drank claret, I have seen many old oyster shells being turned up in road works etc around the town. But, the East coast native populations are now gone (a combination of 19th century over havesting, pollution, introduction of parasites, predators and infections) and the the west coast populations are much reduced.

There are a few oyster bars in Edinburgh, some with historical connections, but what you will be eating is almost certainly not native oysters.

The Portugese that I have seen grown are in a typical basket arrangement, the Natives I have seen were gathered in secret locations.

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