32 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8NA
WLC Rank : 122
Glass from : £ 5.50 (175 ml)
BEST FOROysters, whole brown crab and excellent hot dishes
Fish-friendly whites, elevated in acidity
Characterful Covent Garden location
An excellent place for oysters and thoughtful ABV matches, The Oysterman in Covent Garden is brought to you by a duo who respect the fruits of the sea.
The ‘bearded half’ of The Oystermen, Rob Hampton, and clean-cut, Matt Lovell bonded over a mutual love of seafood, ‘particularly oysters’, says Hampton, and ‘an absolutely shared’ vision of hospitality. He adds: ‘we were tired of overly formal seafood restaurants in which oysters got trapped, wanting instead to create something casual and fun, but still with the finest quality food and wine and proper service.’
The recent enlargement of the bijou site on Covent Garden’s Henrietta Street, featuring a bar by a master boat-builder, allowed the team to double their wine offering, ‘increasing the amount of sparkling wine,’ says Hampton. ‘We wanted to avoid the obvious kind of Prosecco and Cava and go for something thing a little different, such as sparkling Gavi or sparkling Txakoli.’ This has also allowed them to fulfil the raw bar ‘we dreamed of,’ featuring a much larger variety of oysters.
As well as time-trodden wine and food matches, such as soft, buttery, long lees contact Muscadet with oysters, wrong, the duo are ‘really quite up for new things.’ Hence, Rotgipfler from Austria. ‘For a landlocked country, Austria produces amazing wines for more wintery seafood dishes. A touch of spicy pear and almonds… perfect with plaice à la meunière,’ says Hampton. And with firmer fleshed fish such as cured seabass, realised by head chef, Alex Povall, ‘Pinot Gris from Slovakia (Ormoz) is an absolute winner, with soft acidity and rounded stone fruit.”
The team has tended to avoid obvious, fashionable Picpoul and Albarino, opting instead for a perhaps forgotten Folle Blanche, says Hampton. ‘With a taster, immediately providing a more interesting (and better) food pairing. I guess it’s about trying to bring people slightly outside their comfort zones as opposed to radicalising their drinking!’
Note, too, the fine selection of spirits, including smoked rye bread schnapps, from the duo’s friends at Snaps + Rye, bringing waves of umami to Maldon oysters, leading to what Hampton calls ‘a salty baseline’. Also try ‘Everyday Oyster Stout’ collaboration brew with Canopy Beer Co, and the exhilarating, sweat-inducing Scotch bonnet-infused Bloody Mary which apparently made a Japanese tourist cry…
By Douglas Blyde.
Images by Chris Coulson / @cwiss