Bentley's Rock Oysters and London’s Summer Olympic Games

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor
With the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and 2012 Summer Olympic Games underway, this is the summer to be in London. So, after a few weeks visiting with friends in Italy, I headed to London – to preview what the Olympians will no doubt be enjoying oysterwise.

Native (wild) oysters in the British Isles date back to the Jurassic period and became popular in Britain since Roman times. They grow in the shallow coastal waters and estuaries around the British Isles.

In 1916 Londoners were treated to the perfect place to enjoy native oysters:  Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, an only slightly tucked away place on Swallow Street in Mayfair, near Piccadilly Circus.

Oyster lovers have been making their pilgrimages to this same location to enjoy the best oysters from around the British Isles for close to a century.

When the restaurant went on the market in 2005, renowned chef  Richard Corrigan purchased and personalized Bentley’s. The perfect touch.

British native oysters are not generally available until the end of September – or whenever the first cold spell sets in.  Bentley’s marks the beginning of each native season with shucking contests. (No doubt Josh will be competing some time soon!)

In contrast to the UK’s native oysters, rock (farmed) oysters, which were introduced commercially in the 1960s, are enjoyed year round. The rocks, have rough shells and are tear-dropped shaped. I was told, rocks are sweeter, saltier and meatier than natives, but I have no frame of reference, since by law, natives cannot be fished between May and August.
So, here at Bentley’s in the Summertime, rock oysters from the British Isles is all they feature.

Bentley’s has several options for dining.  You can relax at The Terrace outside in front of the restaurant. Tables with garden chairs and umbrellas make it a great place to take a break from touring around London. The Grill inside offers formal dining – a great place to fully enjoy Richard’s amazing menu. And of course there is my destination: The Oyster Bar. 

Entering the wood-paneled room, I found a comfortable stool at the marble-topped bar. At mid afternoon, I was joined by a trio of locals who obviously had ducked out of work for a while. At a red leather banquette nearby, a young couple was engaged in some covert conversation, enjoying their oysters and champagne.

When the white jacketed barman approached, he knew I was here to write about the oysters. He described his oysters with great pride, all the while effortlessly shucking oysters drawn from an ice filled basin.

At his excellent suggestion, I started with a Ch√Ęteau de la Mirande Picpoul de Pinet, from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. An excellent recommendation, which I ended up sticking to for the rest of my visit.

The barman smiled as I told him I preferred my oysters “naked”, perhaps with just a squeeze of lemon or a touch of shallot vinegar. He told me that many Americans request their oysters fully dressed - masking the wonderful flavors of his amazing mollusks. The more we chatted, the more we found we had in common. (It could have been the wine).

Shucking the entire time we talked, he told me that the key to the best in oysters is this: The colder the water, the better the oyster.  Despite having enjoyed Gulf oysters in years past, I had to agree with him.

Within minutes, he had arranged a great platter of rocks for me.  A plate of sourdough Irish soda bread, along with Lincolnshire butter and herb butter with seaweed was all I needed as an accompaniment.  Well, except for the wine.       

I began by tasting the cupped shelled rock oysters harvested from the Jersey Island off the coast of Normandy.  Firm, crispy, salty and savory.

Next I sampled the Maldon rock oysters from Essex.  Firm, meaty and creamy - and a bit saltier.  Inhaling the oysters, I could almost smell the sea air.

The West Mersea Pearls which followed were plump, yet delicate.  Smooth and silky, with a slight hint of the seaweed from the comfortable beds they had been nestled in just a day earlier.  The perfect balance between sweet and salt, with sort of a organic lettuce flavor.
Intending to wrap it up, I slurped a few sweet oysters from Dorset were nice and meaty with hints of both lemon and cucumber. I was duly impressed with the selection, the wine, and the service

Although we had talked about our mutual preference for naked oysters, the barman had the chef make me a dressed platter “just for contrast.”   I sampled those wonderful oysters topped with a tangy Vietnamese sauce, followed by some with a spicy Catalan sauce.  To round off the selection, I had two Oysters Rockefeller. The Vietnamese were my favorite.

With all of these great oysters, I could only imagine just how great the natives would taste. I visit London every other year to see great plays and musical’s in London’s West End. I now know my nest trip will be in the Fall – after the first cold spell sets in. The barman assured me I would truly enjoy the natives from Loch Ryan in Southwest Scotland.

Rand  Hoch
I trust his judgement implicitly.
Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill   
11-15 Swallow Street
London W1B 4DG
+44 (0)20 7734 4756

Shaved Ice for your at home Oysters

I finally came across a great product for making shaved ice, the Igloo Snow Cone Maker.

While the Igloo Snow Cone Maker is intended to make shaved ice for snow cones,  it makes great shaved ice for your plate of oysters.  


Behemoth Orleans lobster to get reprieve

ORLEANS, MA – A 21-pound lobster caught off Nauset Beach and currently on display at Capt'n Elmer's restaurant will be released back into Cape Cod waters.

After public outcry, the restaurant's board of directors concluded it would “be contrary to the personal ethics of the individual board members as well as the business principles of the company” to hold the lobster, according to a statement the company.
Michelle Costa, secretary at Capt'n Elmer's, said the restaurant received a number of emails and calls in defense of the lobster. 

“It's a majestic creature, it's lived for over 100 years, it deserves to live,” Costa said, summarizing some of the opinions expressed by the public.

The lobster will still be raffled off, but instead of receiving the monster lobster, the winner can choose to receive 21 pounds of retail lobster or join the release team to liberate the lobster. Costa said it's “better to be discreet” about the location of where the crustacean will be freed, to prevent it from being recaptured.

The drawing will take place at noon on Sunday. Tickets are available for $5 each or three for $10, with all the proceeds from the drawing going toward the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Reprinted with permission.

July 21, 2012

Twenty-one pound lobster caught off shore of Orleans, MA

There may be an abundance of lobsters in New England this summer, but nothing like this.

WBZ first reported this week that a 21-pound lobster was caught off the shore of Nauset Beach in Orleans. The lobster is currently on display at Capt'n Elmers in Orleans, where manager Elise Costa told WBZ that the lobster's claws are measured at about a foot long.
"Usually, for every four and a half pounds of live lobster, once you cook it and clean it, you get one pound of meat. So 21 divided by four and a half, that would give you about five pounds of meat," Costa said.

Don't go rushing to the Cape just yet though for any weekend bake plans. Costa plans to display the lobster for a period of time before selling it or raffling it off for charity.

Outdoor Life Magazine posted the photo of the lobster on its Facebook page Wednesday night and got people wondering just how old a 21-pound lobster might be, with a few commenters opining that it might be some 147 years old.

The largest lobster on record was a 44-pounder caught in Nova Scotia.

For the original story, see twenty-one pound lobster caught off shore of Orleans

posted with permission.

Support ICOF at Friends for Haiti - September 8, 2012 in Duxbury, MA

Go Shuck An Oyster staff will be at the Island Creek Oysters Foundation - Friends for Haiti Benefit, Saturday, September 8, 2012 at Duxbury Beach.  We hope to see you there supporting a great cause and enjoying Island Creek Oysters, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, a cigar lounge and much more!

This is an event not to miss.    

"This all-inclusive event will take place under a spacious tent situated between the dunes of Duxbury Beach.  The evening will begin with ICO’s iconic raw bars loaded with unlimited oysters as well as passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails created by Boston’s favorite barkeep, The Hawthorne’s Jackson Cannon. Cocktails will be followed by sunset over the Back River and short plates created by some of the the best chefs in the country.  Our food lines are renowned for their brevity, but queuing up with renowned chefs, winemakers, farmers, musicians and philanthropists ensures our lines are one of the night’s best forms of entertainment. Other highlights include live music, and a cigar lounge under the stars. All proceeds from Friends for Haiti directly benefit our collaboration with Dr. Valentin Abe of Caribbean Harvest to  purchase Tilapia Fish Farming Kits and related supplies for Haitian families in Lake Azeui."

Tickets are available online by clicking here

More information will be posted on this blog as it becomes available.  

Learn more about the Island Creek Oysters Foundation and follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook

See you in Duxbury.

Cirque De Sea - A Theatre Arts and Media Initiative

Cirque De Sea
Will Oysters Save the World?

A Theatre Arts and Media Initiative Featuring

Cirque de Sea: A Multifarious Tale of Delightful Prospect

Written by Kahren Dowcett 
Directed by Judith Partelow

To Deepen Our Understanding and Love for the Ocean And The Oyster
The “Brita” of Coastal Waters World Wide

Cirque de Sea: A Multifarious Tale With Delightful Prospect is a scientifically based comedy about sea creatures written for adults and suitable for children 10+. The story’s central character is an oyster named Sammy Spat, a super hero water-filtering machine! Through the play, program notes, and audience talk-backs with marine biologists, aqua culturists/farmers, and the theatre artists, the audience will learn key scientific features about marine ecology, the oyster’s roll as a keystone species, and the creative process. The play also touches on other socially relevant thematic material; bullying, self-acceptance, friendship and loyalty, and personal empowerment.

The staging of the play is done with “Lion King like” giant and life size puppets and masks, and combines music, dance, and poetry in a show that is as educational as it is entertaining. There is a workshop element that precedes the production to creatively engage the community and/or schools offered in collaboration with scientists.

The show is a shucking good comedy for young and old alike. And like Sammy Spat, it’s one in a million!

Call Kahren Dowcett at 508-737-4220 to discuss how your organization, business, or school curriculum can benefit by becoming involved. Donations to advance the work are gratefully accepted and are tax deductible.

Will Oysters Save the World is intended for community, economic, and environmental betterment.


Playing in Provincetown, MA as follows:

Sunday July 29, 2012 at 7:00 PM - Opening night gala extravaganza with Oyster Tasting, Bubbly, Dignitaries, and Surprises

(Family shows at 7:00 PM and Burlesque shows at 9:00 PM)

Monday, July 30, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM
Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 7:00PM and 9:00 PM

Tickets are available online at by clicking here.