This 26-cover seafood restaurant has grown out of owners Rob Hampton and Matt Lovell hosting oyster stands at markets and festivals, and the tiny dining room still has something of the pop-up to it. But the small dimensions don’t mean any reduction in quality, flavour or creativity. Oysters come straight up or with sympathetic accompaniments: a richly rounded sauce of caramelised lardo with parsley, garlic and black pepper, say, or, even better, in a tempura batter with Champagne aioli and caviar. Seafoody snacks are just as good – very smoky cod’s roe with crisp sesame lavash bread or fabulous anchovies on toast with confit garlic balancing out the salt – while starters proper include a substantial plate of octopus carpaccio in a colourful jumble of blood orange, hazelnut, chilli and basil.
Fish takes over for mains in the likes of a gentle curry full of monkfish tail, or a sensitively cooked lemon sole with samphire-like monk’s beard and an umami-rich dulse butter. Crème brûlée and a trio of British cheeses make up the pair of sweet and savoury puddings, the French-leaning, white-leading wine list has been put together with an eye for the unusual, while afternoon oyster happy hours give half a dozen rocks and a glass of crémant de Bourgogne for £10. Hampton and Lovell are charming hosts and we wouldn’t be surprised to see The Oystermen expand – snatch this Covent Garden pearl as it’s starting out.