At the exact moment I write this, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than leave this computer sat on my desk and go and wile away a few hours by the sea drinking wine and eating oysters. Alas, I’m going to have to feast on the memories instead.
You might remember a few weeks ago (was it only weeks, or was it actually five years and life is flying by?) we went down to Kent. I’ve already told you about the Bay Tree Hotel in Broadstairs but the night before we checked it out we went to another wonderfully English seaside town – Whitstable – where we tried out a place that a pal of mine has been raving around for quite some time.
Whitstable is all about the oysters. I read somewhere that they’ve been farmed here since Roman times. Either way, if you visit you can’t really NOT come across oysters, whether it’s in some of the quirky little places you can pick them up or down by the harbour. We bypassed all these to make a beeline to The Lobster Shack which you could be forgiven for thinking is the only place in Whitstable ignoring oysters and opting for another decadent shellfish treat.
Don’t worry – you won’t be missing out. It’s owned and operated by Whitstable Oyster Company and there are plenty of oysters, served hot and cold, along with lobster rolls, grilled lobster, lobster thermidor and a tonne of other fish dishes. Not to mention a pleasing amount of alcohol including local beers and lagers and plenty of Chapel Down wine from down the road in Kent to see you through your meal, whether it’s outside in blistering sunshine or inside with the roaring log burner sheltering from a grey day like we did.
The interior is – as so many places are these days – ‘industrial but it really does work here. I would have liked nothing more than to be basking in sunshine but since we’ve only had about two days of that this year we made do with a rather casual, homely (and dog-friendly) indoor setting to hunker down and enjoy an afternoon off.
We decided it would be rude not to start with oysters but opted for them done hot. If you think you don’t like oysters – if you’ve tried them before and didn’t like them, or have just decided you ‘won’t like them’ without trying (which, by the way, you should never do because you’re missing out on a LOT of yummy stuff by thinking like this) then it’s worth you trying hot oysters. A completely different ball game in my view.
We opted for a few with chorizo and garlic and some with parmesan and garlic. Beautiful on the plate and great-tasting too, though I’m no oyster aficionado. The flavours they were served with were punchy without overpowering the oysters themselves, and you still got a healthy taste of the sea alongside garlic, parmesan and chorizo loveliness.
For main course Mr M opted for wholetail scampi and chips with homemade tartare sauce. It was a generous portion, though he wasn’t blown away. I think given the setting he’d hoped for something that would put all other scampi to shame, but it wasn’t to be.
I had a lobster roll and somehow seem to have managed to NOT take a picture of it. I’m even less of a lobster roll expert than I am an oyster pro, but I managed to grab one whilst passing through Maine on a work trip and I know I like them. If you haven’t had one, it’s basically what it says on the tin – chunks of lobster meat in a light coating of mayo served in a hot dog bun that’s been split down the top.
For info from someone far more knowledgeable than me, check out Serious Eats but until you have one, you’ll have to take my word for it that the one from The Lobster Shack was pretty good. Chunky lobster, a soft roll, and a lunch that was tasty – something I would NEVER get at home – and filling without being too heavy.
We washed the whole lot down with a bottle of white wine, despite the lack of sunshine, and as soon as the coveted seats by the log burner came free, scuttled over to snuggle up and digest our fishy lunch before heading off with a homemade brownie in a takeaway bag for the long walk we had planned to burn off our seafood.
The Lobster Shack is exactly what I had hoped it would be when my friend told me about it – one of those homely refuges that you can retreat to whether it’s baking hot or freezing cold. It’s yet more proof that eating isn’t just about what’s on the plate – it’s about where you are, how comfortable you feel. Of course the food matters and they’re doing exactly what they should be given their location – serving fresh seafood, local produce, cooked simply and not too fussy.
It’s a place where heathens like me and Mr M can joyfully slurp wine and order too many oysters on a Monday afternoon without feeling self-conscious. Where you can peer out at a grey sky yet still feel cheerful thanks to a comfy armchair and a cosy log burner. And for me, that’ll do thank you very much.
We paid in full at The Lobster Shack. They didn’t know I was a blogger.