Six shucking-ly good London seafood bars to celebrate National Oyster Day
Celebrate National Oyster Day on 5 August at any of these exquisite London restaurants
While Giacomo Casanova may have famously considered oysters an aphrodisiac in the 1700s, London’s own love affair with this dish dates back nearly 2,000 years.
Native oysters were considered a delicacy by Roman conquerors of Britannia’s southern shores, who followed the lead of Celtic tribes to fish the estuaries of Kent, Essex and Cornwall. So popular were these molluscs that oyster shells have been found in Roman archaeological sites spanning from the Kent coast to Hadrian’s Wall.
Plentiful and full-flavoured, oysters remained a popular seafood well into the Victoria era. In fact, by the 19th century, they were sold on almost every London corner, with oyster stews and pies becoming popular dishes among the working classes.
But by the mid-20th century the tides had turned, as over-fishing drove up the price and scarcity of British oysters. The Pacific Oyster – a robust Japanese variant – was shipped in to make up for the lack of the UK’s native shells.
Today, thanks to the introduction of more sustainable cultivation practices, oysters have become a celebrated delicacy once more, and contemporary chefs have created a host of new ways to bring out their unique flavours. Whether you enjoy a Jersey or Maldon Rock, cooked or raw, and paired with champagne, whiskey or even a sip of Guinness, we’ve rounded up some of the finest London locations to recapture the magic of this versatile and storied dish this National Oyster Day (5 August).
This fine seafood restaurant located on Mount Street is one of Mayfair’s truest gems. With a buzzing atmosphere, stunning interiors and elevated central seafood bar, Scott’s guarantees a joyful dining experience. The oyster menu is built around four native delicacies – Cumbrae Rocks, Lindisfarne Rocks, Dorset Rock, and Jersey Rocks – all complete with perfect champagne pairings. Not sure what to try? A mixed selection comes with wild boar sausages while a tempura fried oyster adds a cooked option that will wow your tastebuds
The West End’s original seafood bar, J Sheekey has occupied St Martin’s Court off Leicester Square for 125 years, specialising in the freshest catch of shellfish and seafood the capital has to offer, with a fantastic Art Deco central bar and terrace restaurant – providing the ideal spot to see and be seen amid London’s theatreland. Jersey and Carlingford Oysters sit alongside Dorset Rock and a range of caviar, while its impressive cocktail menu can provide a unique pairing for each mouthful.
Few restaurants share a history quite as impressive as Wiltons on Jermyn Street. George William Wilton’s Haymarket oyster stall was first founded in 1742. Through the generations, this became Wilton’s Shellfish Mongers and Oyster Rooms, changing venues as it gained popularity until, in 1868, Wiltons received its first Royal Warrant as Purveyor of Oysters to Queen Victoria. Today, it’s exquisite oyster bar serves seasonal and rare shells, such as Loch Ryan Natives, West Mersea Natives and Beau Brummell. Keep an eye out for the venue’s fantastic Oyster Masterclasses as well.
A seafood bar and restaurant for the cool and contemporary, this unstuffy restaurant on London’s Henrietta Street is known for its dazzling dressed oysters. The Oystermen’s fresh catches of the day define the daily menu, but examples include Buffalo oysters with spicy buffalo sauce and kosho; Champonzu, wasabi and shiso and tempura oysters with champagne aioli and smoked herring caviar. This is a deliciously modern catch.
CLAUDE BOSI AT BIBENDUM
Located on the ground floor of Michelin House, Fulham Road, the Claude Bosi Oyster Bar is a statement eatery that sets the bar for all pretenders. While there are plenty of complex dishes to entice the palate, Claude Bosi’s oyster menu is designed to let each mollusc’s flavour shine – your choice of Jersey, Maldon, Loch Fyne, Irish, Josephine, Boudeuse or Gillardeau oysters are served simply with shallot vinegar, cereal bread and salted butter – for a perfect taste of history.
With three restaurants on Swallow Street, Covent Garden and Marylebone, Fishworks is known for its daily catches and simple dishes that celebrate seafood. Choose from Jersey, Carlingford or Morecambe Bay rock oysters, all served with shallot vinegar and tabasco, as well as choices of accompanying wine pairings and classic mains such as fruits de mer and sharing platters. Covent Garden’s High Sea Afternoon Tea is also a delightful way to try traditional seafood snacks, from Jersey Rock oysters to herring rollmops and salmon gravlax.