Full disclosure. I don’t know how to swim. I diligently took lessons as a kid and earned a yellow badge. Or maybe my mother bribed a swim instructor – I’ll never know. But the fact remains, I am a grown-ass woman who can’t float in a body of water. But far from seeing a large body of water as something menacing, I find myself really missing its presence. In Vancouver, the ocean is always there. Staring at it (from a safe distance) from a rock on the beach is the most peaceful feeling in the world. But what about The River Thames, you ask? Staring into its murky depths, I think of the Thames as more of a throwback to my favourite kind of unrelentingly grim Scandinavian murder show.
I first discovered Whitstable four years ago when I went to the famed Whitstable Oyster Festival. Only an hour by train from London and full of fresh oysters, seafood and salty sea air – I arrived full of unbridled enthusiasm and spent the weekend happily queuing for sauteed scallops, cockles, calamari and of course, fresh oysters. I sat on the rocky beach and stared into the sea like a maniac. I loved it immediately and started “looking for flats” despite being balls deep into my overdraft. I’ve gone back once more for the oyster festival, and while I always have a great time (word of advice: don’t wash down raw oysters with an oreo milkshake – ugh), I think you’ll have a much better time if you go on a less busy weekend.
I highly recommend getting an Air B&B flat if you’re staying for more than a day. We went from Friday afternoon to Sunday and went to the seafood market everyday. Starting with these magnificent sauteed scallops. Oh my word, these were heavenly! I had not seen a scallop like this in years so was beside myself.
And the fresh crabs! Usually I prefer lobster as it is less work to eat with more of a payoff. But if you have the opportunity to get some fresh crab – don’t pass it up. These were just simply boiled and then served with a dijon mustard/mayonnaise sauce. Or you can never go wrong with some hot garlic butter sauce. I’m getting palpitations just thinking about it.
I can be very disorganised so despite putting a reminder in my calendar and being reminded by our wonderful Air B&B hosts, Jason and Simon, to make sure I made a reservation at one of the restaurants ahead of time…I didn’t. I rang up the day we were arriving (the start of a long weekend) to inquire about a table for two. Somewhere. ANYWHERE. I could hear their disdain over the phone. Bitch, please. I’m not a huge fish & chip fan but we popped into a local shop on the high street for an “evening snack” and it was pretty tasty.
Luckily we took a morning stroll on the Saturday and popped into the Royal Native Oyster Stores right on the beach – and walked straight into a cancelled booking. I love it when my inability to plan in advance is so handsomely rewarded.
The smaller oysters are the Irish Rock Oysters, the larger one are Whitstable Bay rock oysters. I preferred the larger ones, because bigger is better. This also applies to hair, guinea pigs and serving sizes. Honestly I can’t REALLY tell the difference between types of oysters. I need more practice.
Razor clams! I’ve never actually seen these before in real life. These were delicious! I don’t normally like clams (unless they’ve been blended into Clamato juice). They’re just so tiny, I can barely taste them. What’s the point? But these were substantial enough to sink my teeth into. Excellent.
Moules Marinier – an old favourite. The best part is dipping some freshly baked baguette bread into the sauce. Heaven. The bill came to £80 for lunch but that included some white wine. A bit pricey for lunch but the seafood was quality, the service was prompt and friendly and when I’m on holiday I tend to spend money like I’m Dr. Dre so this seemed reasonable at the time.
Self-explanatory asparagus with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Don’t even remember eating these, was so fixated on the oysters! Am sure they were good…
Finished the weekend off by having a giant salted caramel oreo ice cream and buying some last minute tat for my “hoarder’s corner” at home. If you’re looking for a nice little weekend getaway not far from London and love seafood, I can’t recommend Whitstable enough!
We stayed in this lovely one bedroom Air B&B flat – the location was perfect as we were right on the main high street and moments away from the beach as well. Plus, we had the best hosts so highly recommend staying here if you’re after a cosy one-bedroom.
They recommended a whole list of restaurants which we didn’t have time to try: Elliotts @ No.1 Harbour Street (named as one of the top 40 restaurants in the UK by The Guardian), JoJo’s Meze, Meat and Fish Restaurant (booking opens two weeks in advance – it’s cash only), Oyster Stores (the only one we made it to!), Pearson’s Arms (nicer upstairs and across from Oyster Stores), The Cheesebox (they have takeaway cheese fondue!!), Wheelers Oyster Bar, or The Duke, Dave’s Deli and Windy Corner for lunch.