The old saying goes that you should only eat oysters in months with an ‘r’. While that might be true for native oysters, which spawn over the summer months and are at their best when the water is as its coldest, you can eat rock oysters all year round. So whether you’re a native aficionado in search of the best bivalves to knock back raw or you’re dipping your toe in the water with a cooked rock oyster, here’s our guide to the pearls of London’s oyster scene.
Aqua Shard, London Bridge (above)
Pearl of wisdom: Not only do you have a bird’s eye view of Old Billingsgate Market on the other side of the Thames from the 31st floor of The Shard, you can follow the river all the way down to the fish market’s current location at Canary Wharf. Toast the occasion with this oyster with mousseline sauce, parsley crumb and foraged sea herbs.
Where: Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
How much: Colchester rock oyster gratin with mousseline sauce, parsley crumb and foraged sea herbs, £16.50
Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, Mayfair
Pearl of wisdom: Oysters are expertly shucked by long-serving staff who have a genuine passion for what they’re serving at this 102-year-old Richard Corrigan restaurant. Expect to see the likes of expertly sourced Galway natives alongside rock oysters baked with garlic. Try two native oysters, two rock oysters and a glass of Champagne for £18.
Where: 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG
How much: Loch Ryan natives, £4.75 each
Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone
Pearl of wisdom: The courtyard at Chiltz is the easiest way to score a walk-in table at the celebrity mecca and the presence of an oyster cart, manned by oyster expert Bobby Groves, only adds to the breezy appeal. Groves intends always to have three native oysters available until the end of the season in April.
Where: 1 Chiltern Street, W1U 7PA
How much: Native oysters from £4 each
Pearl of wisdom: Eating oysters in in Mayfair needn’t mean taking out a second mortgage. At the Swallow Street outpost of this fishmonger-cum-seafood restaurant, £15 buys you three Jersey rock oysters and a glass of Champagne to wash them down with, until the end of September. If you get a taste for oysters, a dozen Jersey, Carlingford or fine de claire prestige oysters cost £30.
Where: 7-9 Swallow Street, W1B 4DE
How much: Three Jersey rock oysters and a glass of Champagne, £15
Hix Oyster & Chop House, Farringdon
Pearl of wisdom: As a Dorset native himself, it’s not surprising that British food champion Mark Hix is a fan of native oysters. Partner your bivalve with a bottle of Hix Oyster Ale. On Saturday 15 September, Hix is holding his second annual oyster celebration, with guest chefs and oyster experts on hand for a series of talks and tastings and oysters from £1 a pop.
Where: 36-37 Greenhill Rents, EC1M 6BN
How much: Three Loch Ryan natives, £14.50
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar, Covent Garden
Pearl of wisdom: Arguably London’s most famous fish restaurant, J Sheekey is a reliable spot to see London’s most famous faces from the West End stage. A plate of mixed oysters with spicy sausage (from £19.50) makes a good introduction to oysters. And who says oysters need to be expensive? Here you can have six Jersey pearls with a glass of Champagne for £19.75.
Where: 33-34 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL
How much: Lindisfarne oysters, £3.25 each
The Oystermen, Covent Garden
Pearl of wisdom: This tiny oyster and seafood specialist has proved such a hit that it is doubling in size by expanding into the premises next door. Delicious trios of cooked oysters makes this a great place to try the molluscs without having to eat them raw, while bargain hunters should try the oyster happy hour: six rock oysters and a glass of sparkling wine for £10, 3-5pm, seven days a week.
Where: 32 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA
How much: Two tempura oysters with Champagne aioli and smoked herring caviar, £6.50
Randall & Aubin, Soho
Pearl of wisdom: Established in 1996, Brewer Street’s seafood mainstay is classic Soho: cool, relaxed, a tad cramped and buzzing with life. Seafood fans will appreciate the overflowing displays of shellfish on ice, while a dedicated oyster menu is supported by Randall & Aubin Champagne by the glass (£12.50).
Where: 16 Brewer Street, W1F 0SQ
How much: Six/12 native oysters, £22/£36
Rex Whistler, Pimlico
Pearl of wisdom: Oysters are served as part of the jazz brunch at the restaurant at Tate Britain. Every Saturday until 29 September, a live band will play jazz and blues on the gallery’s terrace lawn while diners tuck into rock oysters, eggs benedict, Yorkshire lamb and lemon meringue.
Where: Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
How much: Rock oysters with shallot vinegar, £3.50 each
Pearl of wisdom: A sparkling crustacea bar glistening with fresh produce forms the seafood altar at the centre of celebrity hangout Scott’s. Try six or 12 Lindisfarne, Dungarvan or Morecambe Bay rock oysters, or how about a fried oyster with spiced avocado cream?
Where: 20 Mount Street, W1K 2HE
How much: Six Lindisfarne rock oysters, £18.50
Wiltons, St James’s
Pearl of wisdom: Wilton’s received its first royal warrant to supply Queen Victoria with oysters in 1868 – and if it’s good enough for the royal family, it’s good enough for us. Learn all about oysters with an oyster masterclass (£85) on the first Monday of the month.
Where: 55 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX
How much: Six West Mersea natives, £25.50
Wright Brothers, Spitalfields
Pearl of wisdom: With its striking marble oyster bar at the centre, this Wright Brothers branch sets expectations swimmingly high. The native oysters are top-notch, but our favourite thing to eat here is the smoked Carlingford Lough rock oyster, served with crackers and horseradish cream.
Where: 8a Lamb Street, E1 6EA
How much: Three Fal native oysters, £11.50