Shucking Brilliant. Oyster Masterclass at Wiltons
by Nick Harman - Wednesday September 11, 2019 2:09 pm
Love oysters or simply bi-valve curious? At Wiltons you can indulge in your oyster fantasies and discover new pairings.
When people tell me they don’t like oysters, I sympathise.
I’d reached the grand old age of 30 before I even tried one, but when I did I was hooked for life.
I can see why some people won’t eat them though - they do look a bit odd and the texture and taste can be off putting at first. Once you’re into oysters though, less is never more.
Not everyone realises there is more than one oyster, mostly visualising what’s called the Rock Oyster, Crassostrea gigas, the one that’s deep shelled. They originally came from Japan and are sometimes called Pacific Oysters and are available all year round
Native Oysters are our local oyster, so good the Romans took some back to Italy to grow their own. They are flat, more delicate and take longer to grow. Natives oysters are eaten in the cool water winter months, the ones with an ‘R’ in them.
These and other oyster facts are told to the six of us at the bar at Wiltons in Jermyn Street by Tommaso Sicuro, the charming duty manager. At his side, his colleague is quickly and efficiently shucking six different kinds of oysters for us to sample.
We drink Wiltons “275” Anniversary Special Champagne, a sharp lemony glass of ‘poo that gets the taste buds standing to attention.
Wilton’s has been known for oysters since 1742, when Haymarket oyster seller Mr George William Wilton rolled an early version of a food truck around London selling oysters which, back in the day, were hilariously cheap to buy.
And they hold 6 Royal Warrants, the first being granted in 1838 for supplying oysters to theRoyal Household.
So they know their oysters and after a fascinating insight into oyster history, types and tips, we are preparing to tackle the plate of six freshly shucked oysters we’ve been watching build - Jersey Rock, River Yealm, Carlingford, Porthilly Rock, Loch Ryan Native No 1 and Loch Ryan Native No 2.
As he pours Wiltons Chablis 2015 Domaine Jean Durup, Tommaso tells us the correct way to eat an oyster is with first a quick sniff to check freshness - which is more a formality now, as ultraviolet light will have cleaned them at the supplier.
And of course, a place like Wiltons would never dream of serving an oyster out of the water for more than 48 hours.
Then sip some of the liquor, which is the correct name for the important liquid the oyster should still be bathing in, savouring the brininess, loosen the oyster from its undershell, and then eat.
Do not swallow whole, but chew a few times to appreciate the texture and release all the flavours.Which we do.
As we progress it is remarkable how each oyster is different; different liquor, different taste and different texture. Tommaso says, ‘there is no wrong oyster simply personal taste for what you prefer’.
They are all gorgeous, needing no additions such as Tabasco or onions although, again, if you like that, then why not?
In fact, we then go on to try some cooked and dressed oysters, with a chilled glass of Sancerre 2015 Domaine Jean Paul Balland.
Oysters Rockefeller (spinach), Bullshot (consommé and horseradish); Beurre Blanc, cucumber and Caviar; Mignonette (classic red wine vinegar and shallots) and finally with chilli, pickled red onion and chorizo.
All very interesting, I found the Beurre Blanc to be my favourite, but still had a thing for that classic mignonette.
And then really finally, “Christian Dior”, a Wiltons special that M. Dior created for his cookbook, La Cuisine Cousu-Main. It has cream, sherry, eggs, a white wine sauce and truffles.
I can’t tell you how good it is, you simply have to try it.And you do have to try the Wiltons Oyster Masterclasses.
The Oyster Masterclass lasts for 90 minutes and takes place at the celebrated Oyster Bar at Wiltons Restaurant and commences at 6.00pm.
With only six people in each class these lessons are intimate, and include an informal yet informative presentation, a dozen oysters, a glass of Champagne and two glasses of white wine.
What better way to kick off the oyster season?
55 Jermyn St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6LX
020 7629 9955