To chew or not to chew? Is it a rock or a native? How do I open them?
Where can I get decent oysters for under £10 in London? Is it wrong to cook oysters?
Oysters are no longer the preserve of over-priced Champagne bars and cigar-smoking gentlemen. A new generation of oyster eaters can be found grabbing a glass of wine and a plate of oysters on the hoof between business meetings in the City or shopping trips in the West End. Celebrity chefs including Mark Hix and Richard Corrigan are including oysters in their menus, and more and more people are prepared to give them a go.
However, ordering oysters can be a daunting experience for first-timers, and it is difficult to know which to choose, let alone how to open and eat them.
The London Oyster Guide is a book written for (both wannabe and well-versed) oyster lovers by an oyster lover.
Colin Presdee certainly knows his oysters. He has magnanimously taken on the enviable task of reviewing more than 150 restaurants, bars, merchants, retailers and producers serving oysters (including a selection outside of London for a foodie daytrip). He’s delved into the history of oysters, sampled drinks with oysters and handpicked some exquisite oyster recipes, making this the definitive guide to oysters.
The London Oyster Guide is “invaluable for anyone taking their first steps towards realising how very good oysters can be. I would urge anyone to stop when they scan a menu featuring bivalves and choose some oysters that they have never tried before,” writes Charles Campion in the foreword.
“I believe that an oyster should be chewed exactly as any meat or fish. The succulent flavour as the teeth sink into the firm and creamy flesh is an explosion of mineral nuances with the flavour of the seashore on the lowest spring tide. Merely to swallow an oyster misses this essential part of the oyster experience, but everyone to one’s own.”
Presdee, originally from the village of Oystermouth in Mumbles in south Wales, opened the Oyster Perches restaurant, followed by the Drangway, both in Swansea. These specialised in food and oysters from fisheries including Colchester and Cornwall. Now a food writer and consultant living in London, he retains close links with Wales. He has written several books including ‘Food Wales – a second helping’ and ‘Food Wales – eating out guide’.
The book contains:
A guide to the different types of oysters and how to identify them (“The Rock is more elongated with a crinkly shell, with a flat top shell and deep cupped bottom shell; the native is fairly round with a flat top shell and a cupped bottom shell”).
Advice about when is best to eat oysters (the traditional season for native oysters was September to April (or the winter months with an ‘r’) and a list of oyster festivals and merchants.
How to open and present oysters, and a guide to which drinks and accompaniments are best served with them.
Original recipes including oysters with chilli and celery crumbs and oysters crisp-fried in breadcrumbs.
A directory of more than 150 places where oysters can be enjoyed in London segmented by region including Sheekey, Randall & Aubin and Livebait.
London Oyster Guide is available from Amazon.co.uk for £10.80.