September marks the start of Britain's native oyster season. Here we pick out some of our favourite spots in town to enjoy a platter of the briny bivalves, whether it's year-round rocks or natives you're after.
Darby's - Vauxhall
Robin Gill's new restaurant right beside the American embassy bills itself as an oyster bar first and foremost. For the start of the native oyster season their ‘Black, Bubbles and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ offer comprises of half a dozen oysters and a ‘pint of Black’ for £10, or half a dozen oysters and two glasses of Champagne for £30 between 5pm and 7pm - accompanied by a soundtrack of rock ’n’ roll hits.
The Oystermen - Covent Garden
Friends Matt and Rob first came up with the idea for their seafood business when shucking oysters at Matt's wedding. Since opening, they've expanded their original premises to include a raw bar giving them even more space to focus on their oysters. You can have Buffalo Oysters; with lardo; dressed with champonzu, wasabi and shiso; with 'Nduja and - best of all, in our humble opinion - tempura oysters with Champagne aioli and smoked herring caviar.
Prawn on the Lawn - Islington
Prawn on the Lawn serves top notch oysters alongside its larger menu. That menu changes depending on the season, but for oysters look at around £2.75 for Porthilly rocks (£3 if you get them deep-fried with garlic creme fraiche).
Bentley's - Mayfair
Ever the classic oyster venue choice, Bentley's boasts that it shucks more oysters than any other London restaurant - around 1000 a day on busy days. Perch yourself at the original marble oyster bar and choose from wild natives and rocks. For the season they'll be serving three types of native oysters: West Mersea, Loch Ryan and Galway. The first two are already on the menu with the former at around £4.95 an oyster.
If you want to get more serious, then book a spot at one of their regular oyster masterclasses on a Saturday. For £65 you get champagne on arrival, oyster master class and tasting with sommelier matched wines and take home a goody bag with apron, recipe cards and oyster knife.
The Sea The Sea - Chelsea
This Pavilion Road spot describes itself as a "chef-led fish shop, deli and seafood bar" - so you can buy oysters to take home and shuck yourself, or order them to enjoy up at the counter, dressed by chef Leandro Carreira. Currently, six rocks with dressings cost £21. They'll be stocking Colchester, Galway and Loch Ryan natives in due course.
Photo; Helen Cathcart
Sweetings - The City
The original Sweetings opened in Islington back in 1830 before eventually moving into Queen Victoria Street and it's been serving up shellfish to Londoners ever since. It helps to be living or working in the City to eat here - it's only open on weekdays for lunch. Natives will be on from the second week of September - expect to pay around £20 for half dozen No 2 natives.
The Cow - Notting Hill
Tom Conran's Westbourne Park Road gastropub has all the fripperies you could want from a place with such an obvious focus on beer and oysters. Six Loch Ryan Natives currently cost £26 or you could have a quick meal with The Cow Special - a pint of Guinness or glass of wine and six rock oysters for £19. Oh and you might spot David Beckham having a pint in the corner as this is one of his locals.
Randall & Aubin - Soho
There's nothing quite like the classic platter at this bustling Soho stalwart. If you want to mix it up a bit, try their platter of mixed rocks from France, England and Ireland at £18.50 for eight. Native oysters are £22 for six in season.
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar - St Martin's Court
Right in the heart of the West End, the oyster bar at Sheekey's is a useful spot as (unlike the main restaurant) you can pop in without a reservation. If the weather's good, head for their terrace with their current deal of six Jersey pearl oysters and a glass of Delamotte champagne for £19.75.
Wiltons - St James
One of London's oldest restaurants (it's older than the USA basically), this St James stalwart serves up half a dozen West Mersea Natives No 1 for £24. Alternatively you can have them done Rockefeller, Kilpatrick or Beau Brummell (chilli sauce and fried in breadcrumbs) style for £19.50 for six.
Wright Brothers - Soho, Borough, Spitalfields, Battersea Kensington
It's no surprise that the secret to a great spot to eat oysters is an impeccable source and the Wright Brothers' oysters are right up there. We love their Spitalfields spot. It's pretty much all counter dining with an interesting selection of oysters. Even handier, you can get a platter of oysters from several of their locations through Deliveroo (if you live within catchment) - 12 shucked oysters are £36.
Neptune - Bloomsbury
At Bret Redman's sea-themed Bloomsbury restaurant half a dozen Jersey, Carlingford or Cumbrae oysters are £16.
Other places to try oysters in London
Cornerstone - Hackney
Tom Brown's superlative seafood joint in East London serves up oysters two ways - Pickled with celery, horseradish and dill (pictured above) or raw with seaweed hot sauce - both are a fiver a pop.
Siren - Belgravia
The Goring's new seafood restaurant by Nathan Outlaw is serving up a platter of half a dozen Dooncastle oysters for £24.
Hix Oyster and Chop House - Farringdon
A trio of rock oysters here starts at £10.95 - have them on the half shell or deep fried with scotch bonnet mayo.
Fish Market - Broadgate
Set in one of the oldest surviving East India warehouses in the City, this laid-back restaurant features all manner of shellfish on its menu. Their oyster and fizz deals are particularly good - try four Wright Brothers rock oysters and Moet & Chandon for £15.
Sutton and Sons - Stoke Newington and Islington
This modern chipper offers one of the best oyster deals to be had in London - half a dozen Maldon oysters, freshly shucked for £8.95.
Bucket - this Westbourne Grove restaurant is now doing a £1 oyster 'hour' where oysters are a pound a pop when you're ordering a beer, cocktail or wine from 4-7pm on weekdays and 4-6pm at the weekend.
London Shell Co - Dorset estuary oysters are £2.50 each at their permanent mooring The Grand Duchess at Paddington basin.
Bob's Lobster - although their main focus is, of course, lobster, oysters are also served at this London Bridge spot for £3 each or six for £15. There's also a happy hour from 4-6pm Monday to Friday with all oysters at £1.
Chiltern Firehouse: Check out the courtyard of the A-list hangout for their popular oyster cart. It serves three types of oyster daily, two British and one French. Maldon and West Mersea Rock oysters from Essex are on the menu at the moment as well as Loch Ryan, Fal and Belon Natives.
Roe: Upstairs at Pop Brixton, this Irish seafood spot serves up oysters either with shallot vinegar or cornichon and hot sauce at two for £6.
Brat: Everything is cooked over fire at this Shoreditch restaurant, including the oysters roasted with seaweed at £3.50 each.
All prices correct as of 3 September 2019