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Why now's the time to try British oysters

Shellfish is not only abundant on British shores, but is increasingly affordable too.

By Kareem Arthur, Nicola Trup
Published 9 Sept 2021, 08:48 BST
Oysters have long been costly to consume, but we may be about to see a swing ...

Oysters have long been costly to consume, but we may be about to see a swing back the Victorian era, when they were cheap and plentiful.

Photograph by Getty Images

The basics

With their plump, sweet and salty flesh, oysters are a delicacy the world over. And in the UK, we’re blessed with a bounty of these bivalves, particularly around the South East (where the Kentish town of Whitstable has become synonymous with the oysters caught nearby), as well as in the South West and western Scotland.

Read more: Where to eat in Whitstable, Kent

Oysters have long been costly to consume, but we may be about to see a swing back the Victorian era, when they were cheap and plentiful. With restaurants closed during the pandemic, and post-Brexit rules keeping a lot of seafood on our shores, Britain has a glut of oysters and, as a result, they’ve become more affordable. Wright Brothers and Farmdrop have been selling them for £17 a dozen, while Ocado offers Loch Fyne’s for £12 a dozen.

There are endorsements from chefs, too. Nathan Outlaw, for instance, suggests we eat as many bivalves as possible to support the British fishing industry. Others are serving them in interesting ways, from Richard Corrigan’s Vietnamese-inspired oysters at Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill in London to Adam Wood’s native oysters with gooseberry and jalapeño at his new Garden House restaurant in Cambridge.

At home

London-based company Decatur ships Louisiana-inspired seafood kits nationwide, including Maldon oysters, ready to chargrill on the barbecue. They’re delivered with accompaniments including hot sauce and pecorino garlic butter.

Read more: Four UK oyster bars that should be on your radar

For more inspiration, try Oyster Isles: A Journey Through Britain and Ireland’s Oysters by Bobby Groves, head of oysters at Chiltern Firehouse (£9.99, Constable). Groves is also behind Shucker Club, a new oyster membership service that delivers fresh produce ‘from tide to table’.

Around the country

Among the many coastal options are Royal Native Oyster Stores, a seafood restaurant in Whitstable, and Riley’s Fish Shack, a fish bar and grill serving oysters from two converted shipping containers on the beach in Tynemouth’s King Edward’s Bay.

Four takes on eating oysters

1. Oysters Mombasa, Kenya: Baked oysters drizzled with melted butter, garlic, white wine and hot sauce, garnished with parsley or coriander.

2. Oyster ceviche, Ecuador: Fresh, raw oysters marinated in lime juice, onions, tomato, coriander and green or red peppers.

3. Hoi tod, Thailand: A seafood omelette containing oysters, mussels or both, mixed with spring onions, soy sauce and beansprouts.

4. Kaki fry, Japan: Oysters coated in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden, served with lemon, tartare or tonkatsu sauce.

Published in Issue 12 (summer 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food (UK)

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