Robin Hancock, co-founder of Wright Brothers, who farm, supply and serve oysters the way they should be farmed, supplied and served, is going to show us how to eat oysters. Well, we know how to eat them, but we aren’t so confident about preparing them at home, even though it’s really no trickier than opening a bottle of wine or cracking a walnut.
‘The whole purpose of Wright Brothers has always been to demystify oysters,’ says Robin. ‘We wanted to narrow the cultural chasm between the English and the French.’ Oysters used to be everyday food for Londoners, with many millions of the nutritious, frilly bivalves passing through Billingsgate every year in the mid 19th century. But overfishing, pollution and harsh winters saw production dwindle to the point where they ended up as a relative luxury. ‘Our thing, when we started out in 2002, was to demonstrate that anyone can eat oysters – it’s a myth that they’re unaffordable or challenging.’
How to shuck and oyster
Serve them on ice, with a bit of seaweed drapery (just ask your jolly fishmonger).
Using your other hand, insert the tip of the knife into the hole in the hinge, and waggle gently until you feel it give.
Wrap the shell in the tea towel, leaving only the very end poking out, and grip firmly in your left hand.
Then – and this is the tricky bit – run the knife back inside the upper shell in order to sever the adductor muscle.
Robin’s top tips
- Use an oyster knife (do not use a knife with a sharp blade).
- Store the oysters in the fridge, wrapped in a wet tea towel. Eat them within a day or two of buying them.
- Trad accompaniments are lemon, tabasco, red wine vinegar with chopped shallots or simply a grind of black pepper.
- To drink, try minerally, unoaked white wine (Picpoul de Pinet, Muscadet, Chablis), a glass of Guinness, porter from Kernel Brewery, fino sherry or champagne.
- Finally: yes, chew them a bit!