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There is no better season for oysters than this and few finer coasts, we are told, from which to pluck them. So, in the autumn/winter months when these rock huggers are ripe, we thought it a good idea to try out a teambuilding oyster shucking masterclass. Our fish-loving friends at Wright Bros restaurant on Kingly Street invited us to learn the tradition, led by executive group head chef David Gingell.
Our Cornish-born master is as ebullient an oyster shucker as you’re likely to meet, claiming to scarf at least one a day. As we prepared ourselves behind the counter, he ran through the most interesting oyster facts, confirming and expelling myths. No, there isn’t a received way to eat them. Yes, the mineral content can make early nights in with your lover more appealing.
So here’s how you do it: Trap an oyster between a thick cloth, wriggle a shucking knife in the small hole at the top, twist till it pops, cut it from the shell and shuck it down the hatch. You can dress them, but many like them as is.
Once we got to grips with it, we let the pros take over and settled down to some slurpy degustation. There were Kentish natives (not farmed), which had depth and zing, the popular Fine de Claire from our friends over The Channel and meaty rock oysters from Scotland, all with their own character. And then we tried dressed oysters: one with apple, shallot and cider vinegar; the other – our favourite – with ginger, chilli soy. The latter an excellent hangover remedy, we were told.
If you’re planning a sizeable session, a little bread is always handy to settle the stomach and no such delicacy would be complete without a flute of fizz. In this case, a glass of Premier Cru Brut Champagne from Nicolas Guesquin.
Classes at Wright Bros are priced at £20pp and are available for groups between 2 and ten people, with bookings available at 6pm Monday to Thursday.
Click on the links below to see the other great oyster bars around town:
Bentley’s, 11-15 Swallow Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4DG
Bibendum Oyster Bar, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RD
Chamberlain’s, 23-25 Leadenhall Market, London, London EC3V 1LR
Fishmarket, 16b New Street, London EC2M 4TR
Green’s Cornhill, 14 Cornhill, London EC3V 3ND
J Sheekey, 28-32 St Martin's Court, London WC2N 4AL