The World’s Eight Best Places to Eat Oysters
The World’s Eight Best Places to Eat Oysters
Oysters pack such a powerful sense of place. It is easy to fancy the contours of their shells to mimic their craggy coastal landscape; their pungent briny juices crash like waves on the taste buds, even the names evoke their singular provenance. That’s why it is always best to enjoy your first oyster naked for an unadorned, visceral shot of its oceanic grandeur.
More recently, the extraordinary capacity of oysters to filter water has been highlighted, making the reputation of this mollusc higher than ever at the crossroads of style, sustenance and sustainability and, as ever, the byword for decadent dining. Here are the world’s eight best oyster places.
TARBOURIECH LE ST BARTH. LANGUEDOC, FRANCE
Like a vision of the archetypal castaway beach bar, it is hard to believe this is not the Caribbean. It is a mere ten minutes from one of Languedoc’s most charming harbour towns: Marseillan. There is a long, wooden jetty with bench style seating and diners can walk right out towards the oyster beds (or take a proper oyster tour by boat).
What is more, every table in the bohemian cabin has stunning views over the clear Bassin de Thau. It’s a very simple menu: simply Tarbouriech Specials, plump with pale pink flesh and an inimitable hazelnut taste. Such seafood is best accompanied by a glass of fruity, mineral rich Picpoul de Pinet.
MIRAZUR, MENTON, SOUTH OF FRANCE
Currently number one in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Argentinian born Mauro Colagreco’s Mirazur dining room in Menton has the definitive dazzling view of the Riviera. His menu is dedicated to both the culinary delicacies of the sea and the produce of his eden-like restaurant potager where diners are first seated.
There’s a sublime signature oyster dish: a single Gillardeau oyster is presented in an oblong white bowl reminiscent of an oyster shell. The dish comes decorated with little white pearls of tapioca and a cylinder of pear jelly. Small bluish-purple flowers dot the dish adding a lovely pop of color.
GRAND CENTRAL STATION OYSTER BAR, NEW YORK, USA
Do not pass Grand Central Station without a slurp – or preferably more – of the best coast-to-coast American oysters in the huge vaulted dining room. They usually have at least 20 varieties on the menu: Moonstones from Rhode Island; Phantom Creeks from British Columbia; every North American oyster worth its salt makes it way to Grand Central. Open since 1913, they serve around 2 million bivalves a year.
NEPTUNE OYSTER BAR, BOSTON, USA
The menu at Boston’s Art Deco jewel box oyster bar stuffed with ostrophile memorabilia has some particularly vivid, some might say absurd descriptions: noting a ‘buttered popcorn’ finish in the Katama Bays from Martha’s Vineyard, traces of ‘mushroom’ in the Marion Ports, from Massachusetts, even ‘raw pea’ in Rhode Island’s Rome Points. See for yourself if you can find these nuances, too.
34 DEGREES SOUTH, KNYSNA, SOUTH AFRICA
The native Knysna oyster, nutty and creamy and utterly unique, is the speciality of 34 South, a bustling warehouse-style waterfront restaurant on the Knysna Quay. They explain every aspect of oyster history and nurturing. Tempura oysters are a speciality here. Wash them down with a local, dry Chenin Blanc, or even better, some Cap Classique sparkling wine.
SAXON & PAROLE, AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND
Rich and juicy Bluff Oysters with their intense iodine flavour are considered the most refined bivalves from the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s South Island. They thrive in the cold waters of the Foveaux Strait and the season for these sought after natives is from the end of March to August.
Saxon and Parole overlooks Waitemata harbour and offers an oyster tasting menu ranging from briny and strong Matakana oysters to sweet and delicate Mahurangi besides star attraction, the Bluff oysters.
MORAN’S OYSTER COTTAGE, GALWAY, IRELAND
On a weir at the mouths of the Dunkellin and Clarenbridge rivers, the 18th-century tavern Moran’s Oyster Cottage – whitewashed and thatched on its exterior, cosy and wood-panelled within, was immortalized in Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Oysters. Moran’s feels like some family’s rowdy, boozy reunion and serves the exceptional Clarenbridge rock oysters grown in the oyster beds opposite.
SCOTT’S OF MAYFAIR, LONDON, UK
Arguably the most glamorous place to sup oysters in London. Attracting Hollywood A listers, Scott’s started life as an oyster warehouse. The Caprice Group’s executive chef Tim Hughes is passionate about showcasing the best British oysters from West Mersea in Essex to Whitstable in Kent, Loch Fyne in Scotland to the Cornish coast.
Imagine yourself perched at the sinuous marble bar, a fine glass of fizz and a dozen oysters, gazing at the curving stone altar displaying oysters and a huge array of fruits de mer, watching the world go by. There can be no finer curtain raiser in town.
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