I wandered through Covent Garden on a Monday evening and mistook it for a Friday. Dim spotlights, uneven streets, and cacophonous chatter on packed outdoor patios surrounded me to the point of mild nausea. I found the quieter corner, Henrietta Street, and scanned around for the little oyster nook I had been waiting for. Beaming, I glided through the entrance – hopeful taste buds shouting for a brine!
I was met with polite disappointment. Oystermen was fully booked that night, so I had no chance of a half shell fix without advanced notice. Turning a bit maroon from poor planning, I asked for a Tuesday night reservation for two. In the end, it was a much better destiny; oysters and drinks with old friends make a night a lot more interesting.
I traveled out to Leicester Tuesday morning for a work meeting, and hurried back just in time for the US to wake up to finish out the afternoon. Feeling very accomplished, I threw on casual wear and THIS time, I was ready to let my hair down.
Oystermen is the size of a peanut, and that makes it adorably provoking. Everything is glowing in tangerine, like the charm of a parlor from Midnight in Paris. The staff become friends quickly; to the point where they’re even protecting your time in the loo (As I was washing my hands I overhead, “Sir! Sorry, the toilet is currently engaged!”). This isn’t a bathroom review, but it’s those little, meaningful details that make one feel welcomed.
As I admired the beauty of my friend’s skin tone in the lights, the oysters arrived. We had a taste of everything on the list: Whitstable Rocks, Louet Feissers, Maldens, and Kumamotos (Kumamotos?? Yes! Farmed in Essex!). I’d temporarily forgotten how creamy a European oyster was. It’s like the consistency of foie gras at first chew. Then the subtle hints of cucumber, seaweed, honeydew, and light brine roll over the palate. How divine.
The shuck was ornate, delicate and respectful. Our ongoing courses overwhelmed us in sea flavors. The crab salad looked like coleslaw, but the sheer satisfaction of biting into crab meat instead made your eyes roll happily at the unexpected. I nearly lifted and drank the sauce for the mussels, and by the time the sea bream and trout arrived, we were staggering. The bottle of Muscadet was pleasantly light without being too sweet to balance all the carefully curated dishes.
Our laughs got louder, and our arm gestures widened with talk of travel, wedding planning and old memories. In those fluid moments, time stood still and let us be.
A special thank-you to Oystermen for the warmest hospitality. I look forward to returning to that expansion next door! Maybe then a lone stranger can steal a seat on a Monday eve. As for me, I’ll book ahead!