Eating raw oysters is a uniquely invigorating experience; a bit like battery-licking for grown-ups. It seems that we can taste the elements they contain: zinc, calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium.
Served as a starter on our À la carte Menu OYSTERS on ice with shallots, red wine vinegar and sweet chilli dip.
And no other food conjures up a physical feature of the Earth as strongly as a bracing, salty, tangy oyster: the essence of the sea in edible form.
Oysters should be stored at a low temperature and smell briny-fresh. The shells should be clean, bright, tightly-closed and unbroken.
Size, shape and flavour vary considerably. The best from British and Irish waters are considered to be those from Colchester, Whitstable, the Helford and Galway. Natives are pricier and generally thought of as the superior oyster. Pacific or rock oysters tend to have a frillier shell and smaller, milder meat.
Shells found on archaeological sites indicate that people were eating oysters 6,000 years ago (how did they open them without an oyster knife?).
For much of recorded history they have been regarded a simple form of sustenance, punctuated by occasional periods in which they reached the status of delicacy. In Britain they shifted from stomach-filler to luxury food with the arrival of the Romans, largely disappeared from the diet after they left, before returning to favour sometime around the eight century.
By Victorian times, pickled oysters were a common food of the poor in London (and in the American South in the early twentieth century the Po-Boy, a type of sandwich featuring oysters in a baguette, fuelled blue collar workers). The era of cheap oysters came to an end quite abruptly after oyster beds became exhausted due to overfishing and pollution.