Open all 7 days a week 12-11pm
There are hundreds of places in London that serve oysters but few are as obsessed as the founders of The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen in Covent Garden. Having opened in an intimate (read tiny) space just off Covent Garden Market, the success of this seafood niche sees its relaunch in late October of this year. Now spread over an adjacent location – 31 and 32 Henrietta Street – this perky eatery thankfully has now doubled its original size. Fresh seafood is the whole thing here and few do this better than Head Chef Alex Povall. Co-founders Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton are obsessed with freshness and that makes this even more of destination. Yes, you should travel to eat here.
Funky and low-tech, bare bones and rustic, cosy and knowledgeable, The Oystermen might not be the best place to take someone who longs for white tablecloths and red velvet curtains. However, the new addition is suave, with a boat hull exterior by genuine shipwright Giles Thaxton and personal friend of Lovell. The Oystermen is the perfect place to eat with someone you really like – and that includes yourself. The service is attentive: you feel they know you’re there and remember what you’ve ordered and want you to have the best experience possible, even when hugely busy.
It’s the crowd you expect in Covent Garden: tourists, pre-theatre diners and dating couples. But it’s also a meeting place for those who know seafood and we saw quite a few serious shellfish folk huddled over the menu. The new addition allows larger groups to dine together, something not easily accomplished in its original state, so it’s a great place to bring oyster lovers and shellfish skeptics. The raw bar is for walk-ins and has a touch of hungry chic about it.
This is all about fresh. The raw bar has a constantly updated fresh rock and native oyster selection. Lunch has selections of freshest fish, other seafood and, of course, oysters while substantial starters include Portland crab Thermidor as well as Dorset squid and undressed Dorset brown crab. Thankfully, the rather famous hot buffalo oysters are still available. The wine list doesn’t disappoint with small-grower sparklings, surprising flights of saké and gorgeous Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters.
In a nutshell
As an oyster fiend, this is my go-to place – and it takes a lot to unseat Sheekey’s, Bonnie Gull and The Wright Brothers which still hold places in my oyster-loving heart. Friendly, fresh, knowledgeable, not fussy, personal and very fun.
32 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden WC2E 8NA; www.oystermen.co.uk