Seashells by the Seashore

Whitstable, Kent Perhaps it might be more accurate to say “oyster shells by the estuary,” but whatever the proper designation of what we saw in Whitstable today, it is a picturesque working port with lots of upscale touches, heavy on the native oysters.

Evidently the Romans found the oyster beds quite a draw, and the slurping of these bivalves has continued onto the present day.

We went there with friends who consider it their happy place, and who go there often to swim and to relax. Our weather was not conducive to swimming, being a bit raw and occasionally rainy, but it seemed to fit the scenery.

The little swimming huts on the beach give owners and renters a private piece of the sea, plus a real status symbol. It’s a stone beach, but you know how hardy those Brits are. No white sands required.

The town is a great mixture of old and new, and it must be quite jammed in warmer weather. Shops cater to every budget, and dining opportunities abound.

It’s the kind of town where you walk around with constant house lust, imagining a cozy life by the sea in any one of a variety of homes. It seems prices now rival London’s, as many city retirees have made that particular dream come true.

It was a day with good friends often spent having a coffee break and then thinking about where to have the next break. And, of course, there was lunch.

Could there be a nicer way to spend the day?

Don’s Food Corner

We were by the seaside, so of course we focused on fish. Actually, you’d be hard pressed in Whitstable to find anything other than fish. Before reaching our dining destination we passed a number of fish-and-chips shops and oyster bars that had that authentic aura. Namely, rustic and old-timey.

We landed in a more modern establishment which apparently had a long history despite its modern interior. So, it was fish all around.

I started with six luscious Whitstable oysters. They were offered in broiled or baked versions. But I think that would have been an insult to the oysters. As far as I’m concerned, raw is the only way to eat and enjoy oysters. As hoped, they tasted of the sea. Salty and intense. And they were pretty plump as well. A real treat. Blue point oysters that we find so often in New York have a far less robust flavor.

I moved on to a whole roasted sea bass. Unlike the fresh-water bass we enjoy in America, there are no fresh-water bass fish in England. This therefore was a treat as well, although I remember having some great sea bass in France. It was beautifully grilled. Crispy skin. Succulent fish. I couldn’t expect anything tasting fresher. There was a cognac sauce that was served on the side. But why would anyone want to cover up the taste of the fish?

Jo started with grilled scallops. Somehow those scallops disappeared before I had a chance to taste them. She seemed satisfied, however. The scallops came with some black pudding. (For the uninitiated, the primary ingredient is blood, which makes it black.) That part of the dish was handed over to our Brit friends who knew what they were getting in for — and liked it.

For her main course, she ordered Dover sole. Here, unlike most places in America, the Dover sole is really Dover sole and not just some flounder masquerading as sole. I did taste this and it was so sweet and firm. Another great treat.

Our friends stuck with fish and chips, preceded by a shrimp cocktail. They proclaimed this Whitstable version of the highest quality. And they have been around for decades of fish and chip tasting. I had a bite, although I think they were a little appalled that I reached over with my fork. But of the three offerings of fish and chips we’ve had this week, this was the best. The bar has been raised pretty high for the rest of our visit in the fish-and-chips land.

4 thoughts on “Seashells by the Seashore

  1. I think the bar has been raised pretty high for you eating American seafood after this so many other meals. The fish and chips I ate as a child at the Clam Box in Westport has never been matched. In addition to the freshness of the fish, It’s all in the batter and deep fryer oil in my humble opinion. Maybe you know a NYC restaurant who does this dish service.

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