SquareMeal Review of Wheelers Oyster Bar
Founded in 1856, Wheelers is not only a Whitstable institution, but its striking pink and blue facade is also a local landmark. Following some renovation, you can now pitch up at the famous – but tiny – ‘oyster parlour’ or plump for the revamped ‘seafood bar’. Either way, expect a raft of superbly fresh dishes fashioned from daily supplies off the local boats – from oysters and seafood platters to ‘browsing’ plates such as spice-crusted squid with sweet chilli dressing or tempura of soft-shell crab with coriander, spring onion and sea salt. More substantial combos of, say, pan-fried gilthead bream with crushed Mediterranean potatoes and warm salad niçoise or lobster lasagne with leek and white crab ragoût also go down well, ahead of desserts such as pear tarte Tatin with blue-cheese ice cream. Wheelers is unlicensed but you can BYO with no corkage (there’s an off-licence across the road). Note: cash only – no credit cards
About Wheelers Oyster Bar
Wheelers Oyster Bar is the oldest restaurant in Whitstable and has bucket loads of charm to match. Based in a bright pink and blue painted townhouse on Whitstable’s High Street, the restaurant serves a small ever-changing menu of seafood dishes, cooked using fresh produce which has been caught by the local fisherman. If you’re looking for a traditional, harbour-side seafood meal, look no further than Wheelers.
Whilst from the outside Wheelers Oyster Bar looks rather like an old-fashioned sweet shop with the bright colours of the façade contrasting with the plainer buildings on either side, the interior ia far more rustic. The tiny dining room features a fireplace at one end, nautical-themed paintings and ornaments on the walls, and mismatching chairs around the tables, giving Wheelers Oyster Bar more of a cottagey ambience.
The a la carte menu always features five options for each course and the dishes on offer vary based on the season and availability. Everything on the menu is cooked completely fresh by the team whether that means baking bread or making ice cream, meaning that there’s a lot more to Wheelers Oyster Bar than just the fish. To begin your meal however, there is of course always a huge variety of wonderful oysters available.
Starters on offer can vary from a pan fried crab cake served alongside a harissa, crab and lime mayonnaise, to caramelised scallops served with apple sauce, bacon, and black pudding sauce. When it comes to main courses, options might include a lobster lasagne, or perhaps monkfish baked in honey, buttermilk and saffron with a prawn and aubergine curry. Puddings can range from a caramel tart with millionaires shortbread ice cream, to an apple and blackberry soufflé.
Wheelers doesn't have an alcohol license, meaning that you can bring your own along, and there’s no corkage fee either.