Here’s an idea for a trip – why not focus on travelling to places that can serve you delicious food, but food that is also an aphrodisiac? Oysters are a favourite aphrodisiac around the world, and in the words of Catalan man, Agustí Bertomeu, who has been farming oysters for most of his life: “Six Delta del Ebro oysters equal two Viagra pills.” Here are 11 of the top places in the world to eat oysters – the list is not in any particular order, and doesn’t include all great oyster restaurants worldwide, as this would require writing a small book!
1. Delta de l’Ebre, Catalonia, Spain
When you think of eating oysters in Europe, you may automatically think of France. However the area of the Delta de l’Ebre in Catalonia, produces such excellent oysters that actually 80% of these are exported to France. In fact, the President of the Union of Producers of Molluscs, Agustí Bertomeu, has ironically told people that a percentage of these oysters are re-packaged and then “exported” back to sell to Catalan restaurateurs.
The delicious taste of the oysters from the Delta de l’Ebre is the result of the influence of both the sweet fresh water of the River Ebro and the salty water of the Mediterranean. The Delta oysters have a silky texture and a lovely, distinctive flavour. Bertomeu recommends not adding lemon juice to them, but leaving them linger on your tongue for a while, to let the flavours escape. Of course this breaks the normal rules of how we eat oysters, but when you’re sitting in the sunshine of the superb, unique landscape of the Delta de l’Ebre, washing your oysters down with cava, you won’t see this as a problem!
In the Delta de l’Ebre, there a number of restaurants where you can eat oysters and other fresh seafood, but you may also enjoy taking the boat excursion, which happens at 11.30am on Saturdays, from April until the end of September. This costs €25 for 2 hours, and you can taste oysters, mussels and drink cava.
The not very long established Moran’s Oyster Cottage, has only been open since 1797, so up to now they’ve been around for two entire centuries, and a few years of the 18th and 21st centuries. These days Moran’s is run by Catherine Moran, who is of the 7th generation of Morans since its opening, and Nobel Prize Winner, Seamus Heaney immortalised the establishment in his poem “Oysters.” Moran’s Oyster Cottage has also had its fair share of celebrity visitors, which include Roger More, Pierce Brosnan, the Empress and Emperor of Japan, Keith Floyd and Eddie Jordan. If you want to taste oysters in Ireland, washed down by Guinness, this is the place to go.
Another of Ireland’s top oyster spots is Strangford Lough, in the North of Ireland. What makes the oysters special here is the extremely rich nutrient content of the water and the speedy tidal movements. In celebrity chef, Richard Corrigan’s opinion, these are the best oysters in the world.
Of course it would be rude not to visit Paris to eat oysters, so although there a few good oyster bars in Paris, I have chosen the Huiterie Regis because it is intimate and cosy, and they offer the exceptional Marennes Oleron oyster. These oysters benefit from age-old traditions of savoir-faire, and mature in special oyster ponds.
Head north out of Paris, to go and see the fabulous Mont St. Michel and before you know it you’re in the French oyster Mecca, Cancale. In this area you’ll find that the excellent chef, Olivier Roellinger, has a restaurant in a wonderful setting, in a large 1920s villa, overlooking the Mont Saint Michel bay. You can stay, as well as eat there, but you may need to book with a lot of notice, however it’s worth the wait. Below is a link for one of Roellinger’s oyster recipes.
As you may expect, London has its fair share of good oyster bars, Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s makes a religion of oysters. Sample some of the freshest and finest Irish, Maldon and Scottish Rock, and Loch Ryan Natives from Bentley’s broad range.
If you are a keen cook, you may like to go along to the cookery classes that are held here on the first Saturday of most months, which are then followed by lunch.
This restaurant developed because of its sister company, Lochleven Shellfish, who have been exporters of live shellfish to the Far East and Europe for many years. People would come along and ask if they could buy something, and then some people would ask if it could be cooked for them. So a restaurant was created, and in 2011 it won the Scottish Seafood Restaurant of the Year. Visitors from Australia said: “12,000 miles for the best seafood platter we have had.” Oysters cost £1.50 each, and there’s a good shellfish menu, plus some seasonal alternatives.
Xinh’s is a clam and oyster house, which has been featured in USA Today Travel as one of “10 great places to sample local food and wine.” Xinh was born in South Vietnam, and the extensive menu reflects her heritage, with some wonderful oyster, clam and various other tasty dishes. She won the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship five times, and then decided it was time to stop and let someone else win.
In a lovely location on Elliott Pier, you can start off with the best oysters that Seattle has to offer and follow them with a prime, juicy steak. This restaurant goes through over 7000 oysters every week, and has a choice of featured oysters, as well as an Oysters Menu.
Established back in 1919, Casamento’s serves chargrilled oysters daily, as well as their legendary oyster loaf and a range of other fish loaves and dishes. Joe Casamento blended his Italian roots with Louisiana seafood, to create a food icon in New Orleans. The Chicago Tribune said: “this tiny tile and marble decorated gem serves impeccable raw oysters.”
Last, but certainly not least, is this gorgeous resort, which is located in Santa Catarina, where Brazil’s best oysters come from. Need I say much more? Well, I guess I could mention that there’s a private beach and a private island, where an intimate, romantic dinner, complete with Santa Catarina oysters, could be arranged for you.
Jackie de Burca is Co-owner of Catalonia Valencia.