So I just got back from a whirlwind tour of Europe, centered in lovely London, UK. Fortunately England is surrounded by ocean and has a history with its seafood (even if it’s in the form of fish and chips). In most places that care enough to buy quality produce, the fish is (to use their adjective) brilliant. Nowhere did I notice more of a difference in flavor than in the humble oyster, that magical, slimy, strangely sexual mollusk enjoyed on the half shell by so many gourmands and adventurous eaters worldwide. Over probably fifteen visits to my favorite farmer’s/food market in London, Borough, I probably ate 30-40 oysters, always locally caught and slurped down with eyes on my next prize at the bounteous smorgasbord that was the market. This shouldn’t detract from the oyster itself, however, because when I came back to the US and ordered some oysters (a few from Whole Foods and one from a vaguely authentic seafood joint in my town) I had experiences that left me wanting, to say the least.
Here’s the rundown: Oysters in London, in my limited experience, taste salty and wet, like everything good about the ocean. The brine and silkiness match perfectly and seasonings of black pepper, vinegar sauce, lemon, and hot sauce complement a truly spectacular salt-water tinged experience.
The oysters I had in New York had to be, I hope, out of season. Yes they looked and felt like oysters, but the salt and metallic flavors that so defined my oyster experience abroad were nonexistent. Only the horseradish and (overpowering) hot sauce were consolations for an ultimately bland experience.
I’m of course no expert in oysterology and I’ve only tasted a few types of oysters in my time, so for now London is the horse I’m pulling for but further experimentation is obviously necessary.