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Preparing Oysters at Home in Your Bespoke
As Whitstable prepares for its annual oyster
festival, we discover the best way to enjoy
fresh oysters at home.
Whether you have amorous intentions or just
love the unique fresh taste, oysters are a
perfect first course for a sultry summer
evening. But what’s the best way to prepare
them – and should we chew them or knock
them back whole?
The Whitstable Oyster Festival
Every year in high summer, the town of Whitstable in Kent drops everything to
celebrate the wonderfulness of the oyster. This year’s festival takes place from
Saturday 27 July to Friday 2 August.
In a revival of a festival that dates back to Norman times, Whitstable’s fisherman and
Sea Scouts re-enact an age-old ceremony known as the ‘Landing of the Oysters’ in
which oysters are brought ashore and blessed before being paraded through the
town and delivered to all the inns and restaurants.
Whitstable is famous for the native or flat oyster (Ostrea edulis), which thrives in its
nutrient-rich water, where the Thames Estuary and North Sea meet.
Of course, oyster aficionados know that flat oysters should only be eaten in months
with an ‘r’ in them, i.e. from September to April. But with so many oysters to catch in
the winter, Whitstable’s oyster fisherman chose to hold their annual celebration in
their slacker summer months. The oysters that are consumed in their thousands
during the festival are therefore rock oysters and not natives, as these can be eaten
all year round.
Oyster shucking at home
There are a number of excellent oyster bars and restaurants in the capital and
beyond if you can’t make it to Whitstable –but if you are the proud owner of a luxury
bespoke kitchen you may well prefer to bring a dozen fresh oysters home to enjoy
There is a definite knack to shucking an oyster, and after your first few you should
find it becomes easier. We recommend placing your oyster flat side up on a folded
tea towel. You can then hold the oyster down using the edge of the tea towel, better
enabling you to force your oyster knife inside the shell and prise it open.
Once open, move your knife along the top of the flat shell until you have severed the
muscle attached to the shell. With the flat shell then removed, after making sure there
are no pieces of broken shell in the oyster flesh and being careful not to spill any
juices, you then only need to make one final cut through the muscle that attaches the
oyster to the other half of the shell.
Serve your oysters with lemon wedges and light seasoning or a simple dressing, such
as shallots with red wine vinegar.
Then it’s up to you how you eat them – but if you only swallow your oysters experts
will tell you that you’re missing out. Oyster flesh has a wonderful texture, and
chewing it ensures you experience the oyster’s full flavour.