Oysters, oysters – oysters every shucking where. Nick thinks he’s in paradise. It’s 1pm, he has an unfeasibly large Bloody Mary in his hand, and he’s being encouraged to eat as many oysters as he can. Well, if he must.
I’m in Hix Soho, which has had the main room cleared of tables and advertising executives to make space for a competition. As well as oysters everywhere Hix kitchen is turning out buttermilk chicken wings with Tabasco Habanero mayo, bullshots with Tabasco Chipotle and steak tartar with Tabasco. You may see a theme here.
Tabasco and oysters are as perfect together as chips and vinegar so it will come as no surprise that Tabasco sponsor Brand British Oyster Opening Championship, with today 14 professional oyster shuckers and chefs from restaurants across the UK battling it out head-to-head for the championship title.
The event also celebrates the start of Britain’s native oyster season and the fourteen competitors have to open and present 30 native oysters as quickly and professionally as possible, before serving their platter to a panel of judges.
The oysters are then brought back to the main room where, after careful vetting by Hix’s head chef who lobs out any with chips of shell or punctured flesh, they are given to us to eat. He reckons about 800 will be opened in two hours. I aim to eat most of them.
At the end of a hectic two hours Fredrik Lindfors from The Fish Shop, Kensington Place scored a time of 3 minutes 10 seconds and a place to represent Britain at the World Oyster Opening Championships later this month in Galway, Ireland.
At the end of two hours, now full of more zinc than Casanova contemplating a hot date, and with a gallon of Bloody Mary sloshing about inside me, I went back to the office. There I sat with a look of dazed contentment, as well as a vague feeling of intestinal unease, until knocking off time.
A shucking good day, basically.