Review: The Oystermen, Covent Garden

If, like me, you are a bit of an ostreophile (oyster lover), then checking out one of the newer additions to Covent Garden’s restaurant scene is a must.

The Oystermen is located on Henrietta St just beside Covent Garden Market. It is boutique (or small) as in maybe 20ish covers? But it is perfectly formed. Owned by Matt and Rob, two guys with a shared passion for seafood, the idea for the oyster bar came about when they catered for Matt’s wedding and found themselves shucking oysters for the guests.

The Oystermen is simple – great, fresh seafood, and friendly, knowledgeable service. Not only do I love oysters, I am a demon when it comes to dismantling a freshly boiled crab, so I was delighted to see you can buy a sweet Devon brown crab in the shell, by weight from a board on the wall.

Matt & Rob, founders of The Oystermen

There were three types of oyster on offer when we visited, so choosing half a dozen (two of each type) was simple enough. All from Essex, we had Maldon Rock, Blackwater Wild (huge) and, new to me, the tiny, sweet Kumamoto oyster (my new favourite).

The oysters are shucked at the bar in front of you and served simply with red wine and shallot dressing. The menu advice (along with the usual “eat at your own risk” disclaimer that is now a requirement when serving raw seafood – The Oystermen carefully source their oysters so I had no worries there) is not to drink spirits with oysters. Much as I am indeed fond of a drop of vodka with my oysters, we heeded the advice and stuck with the white wine.

After the oysters, we tried the smoked mackerel paté on grilled multigrain bread and the scorched mackerel, pickled cucumbers and capers with salted citrus yoghurt. Both were excellent: such simple stuff done well.

My crab was supremely good. I do know a thing or two about crabs and one of (my many) party tricks is to guess how long ago it was caught (well, cooked). I am usually there or thereabouts by a few hours. My only (very slight) disappointment was that it came partially already dismembered. This is probably a plus for most people, but not me – half the fun is getting in there with the claw crackers. Next time I will just ask them to give it to me whole!

We also had the Coley Bap with tartar sauce, pickles and ‘Old Bay’ fries, and a superb curried clam chowder. All fabulous, all polished off.

The Oystermen had only been open a week when we visited, so I can only assume it will go from strength to strength. I could have spent the entire afternoon in the company of their fantastic shellfish. So, if you’re in Covent Garden Market – and especially if you are a fellow ostreophile – make a beeline for The Oystermen.

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The author:

Abby lives in Radcliffe on Trent with her family and several chickens. She is a former restaurant owner and now mentors food business start-ups, writes recipes, and blogs at The Fishwife's Kitchen.