A guide to eating oysters around the world
Taste the ocean: the best cities for world-class oysters
Words— Kate Dingwall
Salty, briny, luxurious. Love them or hate them, slurping and shucking oysters are a symbol of everything from decadence to sexual vitality. There are over 200 varieties of these expensive bivalves in the world, and each develops its flavours from the environment they grow in—those in the know call it the 'merroir.' One of the best things about oysters? You can find them across the globe, from the seaside vineyards in Languedoc to the Southern-accented Charleston harbour.
The following destinations are the best places for local oysters around the globe. Book a flight, and be prepared to settle in and shuck the night away.
Kyle of Tongue, Scotland
A little known fact: many of Northern France's acclaimed oysters are actually born and bred in Scotland, thanks to a disease that wiped out much of the French oyster population. The Kyle of Tongue's waters are the purest in the British Isles, which makes it the perfect home for the 18 million oysters that are raised there annually. They spend 24 months maturing in the cool waters, then are transferred to France to come of age. Locals will swear by pairing the creamy fresh oysters with a highland Scotch.
In the South of France, everything from Christmas to New Year to a Monday night is celebrated by a balsam wood box of oysters, so do as the locals do and shuck in abundance. This is best done at La Cambuse du Saunier, a dockside restaurant overlooking the pink-hued salt flats. Order a dozen or so oysters: they're delightfully briny but locals prefer to slurp them with a dollop of relish. Be sure to order a glass or two of local Languedoc wine to pair— bubbly will do, but the region excels at producing crisp Viogniers. Visits are best planned between the oyster harvest months of September and April when the water is cool and oysters come straight from the boat to your plate.
Charleston, South Carolina
The Lowcountry may not be the first place that jumps to mind when you think of oysters, but during any month that starts with ‘r’, the briny bivalves will be the freshest you’ll ever taste. It was David Truesdell, a Lowcountry-resident, who opened the famed oyster mecca New York Oyster House in NYC in the 1820s. Charleston is still one of the country’s best places for oysters, so stop into any of the oyster happy hours in the downtown strip—and there are many—and slurp oysters and sip local beers.
Great Oyster Bay, Tasmania
Though the name points to Great Bay being well, massive, the Tasmania hot spot is ruled by a handful of local growers. The move here is to order oysters both prepared, with house-made vinaigrette or delicate cucumber salsa, and raw. Oysters are huge here, but sweet and fresh. Places like the Oyster Farm’s Salt Water Pavillion let guests shuck oysters themselves, right from a picnic table in the middle of the bay. The cool, crisp Pacific waters turn out delicate, sweet oysters, layered and complex in flavours. Clams and mussels thrive here as well, and sea urchin is unbelievably fresh, so order without restraint.
Hiroshima is famed for its oysters, and the best place to experience them is by heading out to the source. The Kanawa Boat Restaurant (it’s quite literally on a boat) serves up fresh oysters in multiple preparations, be it raw, steamed, fried, smoked, poached, or served up in a hot pot: the lump meat and crisp flavours lean well to different garnishes. Keep the shells: the iridescent patterns make for some of the most beautiful bivalve shells out there.
Fanny Bay, British Columbia
The North-West is home to a spate of different species of oysters: each bay and inlet makes oysters that vary ever so slightly in taste. An oyster pilgrimage up the Canadian coast is an excellent idea, but be sure to stay long at Fanny Bay. Restaurants around the world clamour to import these bivalves, thanks to their sweet, vibrant flavour profile.