Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published February 17th 2013
A Pearl of an Oyster and Seafood Eatery
A stone's throw from Whitstable beach and just off the Kentish town's main high street, The Whitstable Oyster Company Restaurant is a rustic, family-run fish and seafood eatery which prides itself in dealing with the freshest produce. The building used to be the old oyster store – the company can trace its origins back to the 1400s - so history seeps from the walls. The interior is large but it's homely as well; fishing paraphernalia compliments the wooden chairs and tables, checker board cloths are dotted around and don't be surprised if there are scribbled edits and additions on the handwritten menu you're given – it simply shows they really are cooking what's available.
In 1997, the Whitstable Oyster beds were granted Protected Geographical Status by the European Union, so it's only natural to see an oyster bar immediately you enter the restaurant, proudly displaying its wares. Take a look outside the large, sea-facing windows and beyond the terrace that offers gorgeous, beachside al fresco dining in the warmer months and you'll see piles of oyster shells on the beach. Whitstable also hosts an annual oyster festival in the summer, where the landing of the oysters is symbolically recreated before a carnival procession makes its way through the town.
But don't be concerned if they're not to your taste as the menu at this restaurant is varied. Starters can also include a hot salmon salad, prawns with garlic butter, scallops with balsamic vinegar, local crabs and dabs and char-grilled sardines. Battered cod and chips, sole, mackerel and three-fish pie were among the main options on our visit. Portions are large; all come with some form of potato, but there's also a choice of side dishes. Prices reflect the often local, fresh ingredients but the quality of the cooking is worth it. Comments on our chosen dishes ranged from good to outstanding.
The variety on the wine list is interesting and the fact it includes British wine was a real plus-point for our party. The staff are knowledgeable and happy to discuss the options. A Kentish wine from a local vineyard, a Chapel Down Bacchus, was a delicious addition to our table. Service is professional and they went the extra mile upon discovering one of the group was celebrating a birthday. For dessert, if you can manage it, highlights were a selection of homemade ice creams, with flavours including banana and butterscotch, run and raisin, honeycomb and chocolate and a chocolate, pecan, salted caramel tart. Three courses and plentiful wine came to £55 per head.
The Whitstable Oyster Company Restaurant serves lovely food and is a great choice if you're a fan of fresh fish, having a celebration, looking for a beautiful seaside backdrop for your lunch or are away for the weekend in Whitstable and want a special place to dine. It's easily accessible for day trippers too, being a 15 minute walk from Whitstable train station.