Al-Fresco Dining in Covent Garden at The Oystermen.
While Eat Out to Help Out is a wonderful scheme that helps everyone’s pocket, I’m equally impressed with the measures being taken in some of my favourite haunts to encourage diners who might be a bit nervous of eating indoors. Henrietta Street in Covent Garden is a great example. Pedestrianised until October, the street is lined with tables from the excellent eateries of Covent Garden. And, when the weather works, it’s a fabulous opportunity to enjoy some al-fresco dining. We went along to The Oystermen – a fish restaurant and bar that I’ve been meaning to try for a while now.
I’d booked earlyish to make sure we COULD have a table outside and when I arrived there was just one other couple enjoying an aperitif. The place filled up quickly by the time we’d ordered nuts and olives to nibble on while we chose our food. Definitely worth booking and arriving in good time to pick your favourite spot.
We were delighted to see that the short wine list included a Hampshire sparkling that’s a favourite of both of ours. Hattingley Valley offers a fine example of English Sparkling – and the list also included their still Pinot Noir rosé. Our starter to share of whipped cod’s roe and toast arrived at just the right time.
I’d expected something close to taramasalata, but this was altogether lighter in texture and with more flavour than the supermarket tarama I consume throughout the summer.
My rather parsimonious helping of a couple of Maldon Rocks was due to my companion’s aversion to the slippery beasts. Personally I love them…but if only one of you is going to enjoy them, it can seem an expensive luxury. Despite my scrooge-like ordering, they came with lemon and a classic mignonette and were beautifully fresh. Next time I’m going with a fellow oyster-lover so I can enjoy a guilt free feast!
In contrast to her oyster aversion, my companion loves fresh crab. I know this from a previous experience which involved using eyebrow tweezers (carefully sanitised!) to remove crab from claws because we didn’t have the right equipment.
This monstrous beast is actually the 700g crab – which she said was more than enough for her
Beautifully presented, the brown meat came ready picked and she was set up with crackers and picks to remove the rest of the white meat. Lemon, mayo and a healthy portion of chips are all that is needed with this kind of food.
My rather posh seabream came with lightly pickled fennel and pomegranate and a delicious buttery fennel dressing. Initial crab envy swept away by the perfectly cooked firm-fleshed, sweet fish. Sides of chips and heritage tomato salad were an excellent complement for the dish.
Although we were sitting outside I wanted to check how The Oystermen had adapted their space. In fact, this is a restaurant where a lot of attention has been made to ensuring that both staff and customers are safe and comfortable. The oyster shucking was taking place behind a perspex screen and the fresh shellfish was on display there too.
The interior of the restaurant was divided up, sea shack style, into booths for 2, 4 or 6 diners. It looked as if it could have been there forever, but I learnt that this fitting out happened during lockdown – a much more appropriate form of social distancing than the plastic sheeting I’ve seen elsewhere.
Outside though, was everything we could have asked for – warm enough to enjoy lunch but not so hot that we needed the parasols!
We both agreed that the simple yet enticing menu at The Oystermen is one we will come back and enjoy again. And it’s going on my list of the best restaurant in Covent Garden to enjoy throughout the summer of 2020
The Oystermen Seafood Bar and Kitchen
32 Henrietta St,
London WC2E 8NA