John Bil’s Quintessential Oyster

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

After our last breakfast at the Inn on Bay Fortune, Michael and I ventured to PEI’s famed oyster capital – Malpeque.
We drove west along Veteran’s Memorial Highway to Saint Peter’s Bay, not far from Prince Edward Island National Park where we had spent the previous day hiking along the unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes. We were pleasantly surprised by the warm water at the park’s beach in Greenwich.

On the way back from the beach we treated ourselves to a snack of South Lake oysters on the veranda of the Inn at St. Peters.

From St. Peter’s Bay, we traveled west along Route 6, driving through farmland along the coast, stopping briefly at the resort at Delvay-by-the-Sea.

Reaching Cavendish, we stopped to take a picture of the Anne of Green Gables House for our friend Rebecca.

Just outside of Cavendish, we stopped at Raspberry Point Oysters Co to personally thank James Power and Scott Linkletter for the oysters we enjoyed before the trip. However, everyone was busy preparing for the company’s 1st Annual Oyster Slurp on August 21, which Michael and I were unfortunately going to miss. So we just took a few photos and continued along our way.

We continued west to Route 20 to meet PEI’s foremost oyster maven John Bil at his Ship to Shore Restaurant and Lounge in Darnley.

John was behind the bar when we arrived, pressing oranges in an old-fashioned juicer in preparation for a private party that night. He seemed happy to take a break and talk oysters with us, but then, I’ll bet he’s happy to do that with everyone who shares his love of oysters.

He drew us a couple of local red draughts and brought over a tray of his favorite oysters – “Johns ‘2 L’ Private Stock – from the seafood shop.

“When I think of oysters, these are the ones,” he said factually. “I’ve been getting them for years from my friend John MacDonald, who lives right across the street.”

Oysters really don’t get any fresher than these.

Since John is a three time Canadian oyster shucking champion, and a two time North American shucking champion, we wanted to learn from the master.

Having placed an oyster cup down on a dish rag, John inserted his knife in a narrow slot at the hinge. With a firm push and a quick twist, he lifted the lid up off the cup. John then scraped the knife along the lid and again across the cup, to separate the muscle from the shells. Displaying the oyster to us, he made sure there were no bits of shell or other debris on the oyster. The entire process took him only a matter of seconds.

While Michael shot a great video of this process, we are not currently able to upload it. Fortunately, someone else caught it years ago:

The “John’s ‘2 L’ Private Stock.” oysters were large and meaty. Biting into the oyster, I tasted a perfect oyster with slight touch of brininess from Darnley Basin.

“That’s the way they taste today,” John explained. “It is based on what has just passed the oyster lips before they came out of the water this morning. Try them in another week or so and they’ll probably taste different, but they’ll always be good.”

Before we left, we sampled some Indian Creek and Raspberry Point oysters, and John gave us a restaurant suggestion for the night – Lot 30 in Charlottetown.

All in all, it was a great way to spend some time on the way to Malpeque, where we spent a little while checking out the bay before heading on to Charlottetown.

Ship to Shore Restaurant

2684 Route 20,
Darnley, Prince Edward Island, C0B 1M0
(902) 836-5475