This Autumn, we celebrate the return of the native oyster season at The Urchin, with natives back on our regular menu from October to March, and a special Oyster Feast on Monday 28th November, featuring fresh Larrikin Oyster Stout brewed on-site, live music and a plethora of oyster goodness.
Oysters have been around for 180 million years and eaten by people for at least 5,000. They were popular in Roman times and fished from UK waters such as Whitstable Bay, Kent; the Blackwater River Estuary, Essex; and the Fal River Estuary, Cornwall. Roman emperors even imported them by boat from England to Italy!
Up until the early 19th century, native oysters were plentiful, affordable and largely eaten by Britain’s working classes. In 1864, over 700 million oysters were consumed in London alone, available on almost every street corner, and oyster fisheries employed around 120,000 people across the UK. They were an important food source in coastal communities and were so widely available, they were used to bulk out steak pies!
More recently, conservation controls in the UK ensure that wild native oyster stocks remain sustainable, which include fishing only being allowed between October - March to avoid the spawning season, and in some places only by hand from either sail or rowing vessels, and only licensed fishermen. We visited one of our native oyster suppliers, James Brown, in Cornwall to see how it’s done and learn more about this ancient process.
In 2020, on the day we closed for lockdown, Nick discovered that we still had 80 fresh native oysters in our fridge. His instant reaction? “Let’s brew an oyster stout!”.
We brew our Larrikin Oyster Stout using both the shells to clarify the beer but also the oyster flesh to add flavour and texture. We were super pleased how well it turned out. The slightly bitter, sweet nature of a stout pairs nicely with the briny flesh of an oyster and also gives the beer a natural creaminess. The result is a much fuller, flavoursome stout than other mainstream brews, but at 5% abv remains nonetheless easy drinking.
This Autumn, we welcome Larrikin’s Oyster Stout back onto our taps as the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of oysters.
Oysters certainly contain an enormous amount of zinc (1500% of the recommended daily dose!) – a mineral that helps the body produce testosterone. Research suggests that zinc also improves sperm count, health, and sexual function in men, as well as helping to regulate oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in women. Whether they have desire-inducing properties is yet to be proven but infamous lothario Casanova was certainly convinced. It is said he ate 50 oysters every day for breakfast to up his sexual stamina!
Oysters are also a great source of Vitamin C, and B-12. They're loaded with selenium and iron, and they’re rich in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. On top of that, oysters are low in calories but contain a potent hit of protein.
“The World is My Oyster”
It was in his play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ that Shakespeare coined the phrase. Falstaff says to Pistol, ‘I will not lend thee a penny’ and Pistol replies, ‘Why then the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open.’ The expression’s meaning has evolved over the years and has come to mean simply ‘the world is mine to enjoy.’
Native Oyster Season @ The Urchin runs from October to March. Premium native oysters from The Wild Oyster Company, Cornwall are available on our regular menu with a choice of accompaniments. Larrikin Oyster Stout on tap as standard.
From 5pm to close on Monday, 28th November, The Urchin’s Oyster Feast takes place with live music from Josh Payne. There's no need to book so just rock up but please help us to get an idea of numbers by letting us know you're coming by clicking here.