Where To Go When You Just Want Some Oysters

From great little seafood spots to big-budget classic institutions.
Where To Go When You Just Want Some Oysters image

photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli

On a Friday night you turn to your friend, lover, or the nearest mirror, and say “fuck it, let’s go for oysters”. Did you just get shivers? We did. Whether you go to a great little seafood spot or a big-bill classic establishment, there are truly few things that feel as luxurious or celebratory as going out for oysters. Throw in some champagne and you’ve got one of the most formidable combinations of all time. But let’s not pretend that when it comes to raw molluscs, that you don’t want to make sure you’re going to the right restaurant. That’s where this guide comes in.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch


Notting Hill

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The Cow Special is undoubtedly the best food and drink combo in London. Forget whether Tom Cruise or one of Jude Law’s angular offspring are in the corner of this celeb-favourite pub and restaurant in Notting Hill, and just focus on what’s in front of you. Specifically, the six Jersey Rock oysters and a pint of Guinness. They’re delicate and crispy, and the perfect foil for a creamy pint of the black stuff. Which is, incidentally, expertly poured too.

If you go down to the woods today… you’ll find one of London’s best spots for seafood. OK, technically Oyster Shack is in Essex, deep in Epping Forest, but it’s within the M25. Don’t be fooled by the basic setup—a hut with terrace seating out front—this is where in-the-know bikers and families crowd around platters of fat, juicy Carlingford oysters. Post-walk, a pint of Guinness, which you can bring in from the pub next door, is the perfect accompaniment to a dozen of Scotland or Ireland’s finest. For something from closer to home, there are crisp Maldon or Jersey oysters.

Wilton’s has been open for over 275 years. In restaurant terms, that most definitely counts as ‘a hot minute’ and should be all the proof you need to know that you’re in safe hands for a winning oyster experience. It was originally a fishmonger that has morphed into London’s ultimate old-school seafood restaurant, and the servers take everything from shucking to presentation very seriously. Of course, everything at the St James’s restaurant is eye-wateringly expensive, but it’s worth it for the opportunity to gobble up a slice of London dining history alongside your Loch Ryan natives. The little muslin cover for the accompanying lemon is a classy touch too. 

The oysters at The Guinea Grill get lonely without a Guinness sidekick. Behold, the kind of lie we tell ourselves to enable this dynamic duo. When you hit up this teeny tiny Mayfair pub for a half dozen rock oysters, a pint of the black stuff just makes sense. There’s a somewhat stuffy dining table out back with white tablecloths and—deep breath—portraits of roosters, but the bar is where you want to be for a gloriously simple oyster experience. 

If you like your oysters with a side of “check out that view”, then you’re going to be really into Seabird. That being said, it could be easy to dismiss this very bougie Southwark restaurant as another rooftop cocktail bar masquerading as an overpriced restaurant. It isn’t. Not only does it have a big, excellent oyster selection, the staff will be more than happy to guide you through your options with zero judgment and plenty of expert intel. Come here for dates, with mates, or for a big-deal business dinner, and you’ll have a great time. And those views really don’t hurt either. 

How to describe a Morecambe Bay oyster? Imagine Ryan Gosling’s tears with just a subtle hint of unicorn milk and you’re on the right lines. Basically, it’s the perfect oyster if you’re into a more melty, soft situation over a big hit of sea salt. We first discovered our love for this particular oyster at seafood mini-chain Wright Brothers. There’s zero of that “what do you mean you don’t know the difference between Menai rocks and Loch Ryan natives” side eye here—just straightforward seafood. There are locations in Borough Market, Spitalfields, and Soho, but our favourite is the Battersea restaurant for the excellent river views. 

Referring to your oyster boys as “more chilled than a dozen of Loch Ryan’s finest” could raise eyebrows in some circles. But as people who refer to themselves as ‘athletes’ every time they manage more than 80 steps per day, we salute Bentley’s description of its oyster shuckers. A classic West End seafood restaurant with a big heated terrace, it’s a great place to sip champagne over a dozen oysters. Some of the mains can be a little hit or miss, but the rockefeller dressed oysters are always a good call. 

Parsons is the West End equivalent of the wardrobe that leads to Narnia. No, we haven’t started on the bubbly early, just hear us out. This tiny British seafood restaurant in the middle of Covent Garden is the kind of place you could walk past countless times and not realise that there are magical things like oysters and lobster mash hiding inside. It’s a simple, classy setup but the window seats are where you want to be for an oyster-fuelled date night. 

There are old-school seafood restaurants and then there’s Sweeting’s. This Grade II-listed building has been serving oysters for over a century. That’s almost as long as we’ve been telling ourselves we’ll open a savings account. This City spot is a strictly weekday lunchtime affair, and you’ll undoubtedly see fish on ice in the window and businessmen on their second Guinness inside. Heads up, it only serves two types of oysters—both native to the UK—so it might not be the best bet if you want variety, but it’s still a classic London dining experience. 

Right, you are going for oysters and you are not messing around. You’re going to wear something that—from very, very far away—looks like Chanel. You’re going to drink an alarming amount of champagne. Most importantly, you’re going to document it all on social media so that everyone is super jealous. When you want all of the above, we’d recommend the elegant Covent Garden spot J Sheekey. Its moody, glamorous horseshoe oyster bar is just the place when you want to feel like some exceedingly charismatic heir who just happened to be in the mood for molluscs. Be warned, it’s pricey. 

Calling Scott’s an affordable restaurant would be like calling Gemma Collins shy. It’s just not true. Before you email us, please know that we very much worship at the altar of GC hilarity, we wouldn’t have her any other way. And honestly, we wouldn’t change Scott’s either. Every city needs a seriously expensive seafood spot to trot out for anniversaries and big-deal birthdays, and this is ours. To do Scott’s properly, book a table out on the terrace, order some Dom, and be prepared to spend those big bucks. You can choose between Carlingford oysters or tempura fried ones that come with ponzu aioli, or get the mixed plate with wild boar sausages. There’s a Scott’s in Mayfair and Richmond, but the Richmond terrace has pinch-me river views. 

If you’re someone who finds the idea of eating oysters a bit intimidating, we get it. Do you chew? Why do people keep talking about dressed oysters? It’s a mollusc, what are they even wearing? Before you spiral into aphrodisiac panic, know two things. One: referring to them as Sexy Salties make them much less intimidating. Two: the Well & Bucket is a neighbourhood pub in Shoreditch that does half a dozen Morecambe Bay oysters for £14 with none of that pretentious silliness going on. More oysters, less panic. Perfect. Just know, they’re only on the menu Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

Contrary to what Gloria Gaynor might think, it is entirely possible to have fun without the presence of a disco ball. But they do help. Soho institution Randall & Aubin not only has a disco ball in the dining room but it’s also one of London’s go-to oyster spots. You can’t go wrong with the native or Irish oysters, but know that if you’re rolling with a group it’s worth getting involved in the plat du fruits de mer, which includes everything from rock oysters to a whole dressed crab.

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