Tuesday, November 29, 2011

London Oyster Tasting, Oyster Festival & SO Much More

Oyster Tasting, Rabbit Terrine & Terrific Steak. And Foie Gras and Crème Caramel. And More.

London is falling back in love with oysters. Of course, there have always been individuals here who have been willing to hunt down a regular supply and pay for the privilege. But the new wave of interest in oysters goes beyond the generic and is reaching out for the plethora of scents and flavours that are produced by the oysters’ species, environment and the season you're eating them in, and this is making oysters a more accessible treat. I can't tell you what good news this discovery is for me, having recently moved to London from France, especially as the current interest is focussed on UK-produced specimens.

As part of their Oyster Festival (November 2011 – April 2012), Boisdale and Wright Brothers teamed up to host the Oyster Tasting Championships 2011. A panel of epicurean judges picked six winners, including three native and three rock:

Rock Category
Gold – Poole, Dorset supplied by Dorset Oysters
Silver – Maldon Rock supplied by Maldon Oysters
Bronze – Portland supplied by Fleet Oyster Farm, Dorset

Native Category
Gold – Loch Ryan supplied by Rossmore Oysters
Silver – Duchy of Cornwall supplied by Wright Brothers
Bronze – Maldon supplied by Maldon Oysters

Native oysters at Boisdale

For the duration of the festival all Boisdale restaurants and Wright Brothers Soho are serving all six winners on Boisdale’s ‘Six Medal Plate’, so oyster lovers - or anyone who is curious - can enjoy a tasting session of their own. It’s the only way to fully appreciate the differences between each variety. They are also half price from 5-6pm Monday to Friday during the festival.

This will take us a little further along the way towards oysters becoming commonplace and therefore more accessible for everyone (cheaper). Not that I want to devalue the wonderous oyster or its farmer - but a booming mainstream industry would fund itself nicely.

Anyway, I went to try the platter of winners at Boisdales in Canary Wharf, and had a great time. The only drawback as an oyster-explorer was that we weren’t able to establish which oyster was which. Boisdale & Wright Brothers, can your chefs supply labels? I’ll gladly go back and try them again, possibly on multiple occasions, if my oysters came labelled. I want to not only taste the difference but learn which one tastes of what, please.

Way More Than Just Oysters

For me, an oyster-tasting session is extremely exciting in itself.

Foie gras is also enough to animate me, and ditto top-notch steak. So, I was quite overwhelmed by consuming the following menu at Boisdales, after the oysters:

Generous slice of foie gras (sadly a bit over-cooked for my taste but nice to have anyway) with a truly fantastic rabbit terrine, containing all sorts of perfectly placed surprises, like pistachios and fruit.

Wonderful rare filet steak and trimmings – can’t remember the trimmings as the steak stole the show, just as it should.

Delicious (if inappropriate after such a heavy meal) crème caramel with a rich chantilly.

Each course was served with a well-matched wine, starting with champagne with nibbles and finishing up on sauternes with dessert.

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