London's best oyster bars

Daniela Paiva

5 August 2022

Step date night up a notch at these purveyors of the capital's finest oysters

5 August 2022 | Daniela Paiva

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here is a good reason London is home to an array of places to indulge in oysters. It's partly to do with their natural proximity to the city, some of the finest coming from just down the road in Essex. It's also partly to do with the oyster's historic connection with London's East End, where it sustained paupers for generations before transforming into the delicacy we know it as today. Of course, the fact that oyster connoisseurs are very much dedicated to their cause may also have something to do with it. When they see rocks on a menu, they find it nearly impossible to resist ordering a few – and, at up to £6 a pop, that's a sizeable income for a dish that requires no cooking.

Of course, for true oyster lovers, there's as much thrill in a Michelin-starred restaurant as there is in market stalls and authentic old-school eateries – the latter, in fact, serving some of the capital's finest crustaceans. You simply have to know where to look. Here's our guide to the best oyster bars in London.

Goddard and Gibbs, Shoreditch 

Shoreditch's newest seafood spot boasts Tom Moore in the kitchen, serving up refined plates in an elegant dining room characterised by a prominent yellow colour palette and intimate ambiance. It’s the perfect setting for an oyster feast with the menu featuring ethically-sourced British varieties from Maldon in Essex, Carlingford on the Irish coast, and Whitstable in Kent. The twist is in the dressings – choose between traditional red wine and shallots or Vietnamese, with ginger, chilli, soy, and parsley adding a welcome nuance to the mollusc’s salty richness.

100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6HU, goddardandgibbs.com

The Seafood Bar, Soho 

“The world is your oyster” reads the inscription on a mirrored wall at the back of The Seafood Bar, which opened in Soho in 2021 as the eponymous group's first location outside the Netherlands. If that wasn't enough to tell you you're in the right place, the restaurant sports a coastal design and relaxed, easy-going atmosphere, with white chairs, wooden tables, brick panels and decorative crabs adorning the walls.

Created by a fishmonger, freshness and quality are top of the bill, and the oyster menu begins with the crème de la crème of huitres: the French Gillardeau. You'll also find the balanced Fine de Claire and the nutty Utah Beach, as well as locals Jersey and Maldon. For bigger appetites, the fruits de mer platter is an excellent choice for turning your dinner into a seafood feast. Be warned, it will feed many more than the menu actually suggests. But who are we to complain about too much of a good thing?

77 Dean Street, W1D 3SH, theseafoodbar.com

Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, Mayfair

Received wisdom is that oysters should be swallowed whole. The knowledgable Bentley's Oyster Bar staff, who have been shucking oysters since 1916, will happily gently disavow you of this notion. Just ask Darius, the welcoming oysterman charged with dishing up plates of the good stuff to patrons perched on the marble counter's charming red leather seats. He’ll guide you through the wonders of a rock selection that includes West Mersea, Whitstable, Dorset and Carlingford, as well as the richest and juiciest Louët-Feisser, which he professes to be his favourite. Follow his instructions and you’ll be utterly rewarded.

11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG, bentleys.org

The Oyster Shed, London Bridge 

Thanks to a gorgeous riverside location and a kitchen helmed by former Masterchef winner Natalie Coleman, London Bridge's Oyster Shed is so perennially busy that it can be a bit hit-or-miss. If you're after its namesake crustacean, arrive early: they only order what's freshest and demand means the selection may suddenly be reduced or disappear entirely. Which is a shame because, for those lucky enough to get their hands on some, the oyster here are delivered with one of the best dressing selections in town ­– salmon caviar, dill and samphire oil, as well as red wine and shallot.

1 Angel Lane, EC4R 3AB, oystershed.co.uk

The Wright Brothers, Battersea, Borough Market and South Kensington

For some, the best restaurants are the ones where you know exactly what to expect. They're dependable, reassuring and can be counted on to deliver great service and good quality. For almost 20 years, the Wright Brothers have been shucking oysters and serving seafood at their relaxed, under-the-radar mini-chain, which has three sites across London in Battersea, Borough Market and South Kensington. Each location is fitted out with a good-sized bar equipped to sate oyster cravings, readily satisfied by a menu that features homegrown varieties alongside dressed options inspired by California, Mumbai, New Orleans and Tokyo.

Visit thewrightbrothers.co.uk

Seabird, Southwark 

Located on the 14th floor of The Hoxton in Southwark, this dedicated seafood restaurant boasts the longest oyster list in London. And it really is an impressive array, with oysters hailing from France, England, Ireland and Scotland served from an eye-catching raw bar. Wooden flooring, large plants and rustic décor gives Seabird an elegant ambiance, and, let’s be honest, it’s hard to beat watching a gorgeous sunset while enjoying a large plate of iced oysters and a glass of something chilled and sparkling.

40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8NY, seabirdlondon.com

Oyster Boy, Broadway Market and Columbia Road Flower Market

East London's fashionistas love to stroll around Broadway Market’s foodie stalls on sunny Saturdays and Columbia Road Flower Market on Sundays. And basking in the vibrant atmosphere means a mandatory pause at Oyster Boy. Typically, the deal is £2 per oyster or a plate of six for £10, which is a fair price for this hip treat. From its early street food and private hire beginnings, to a bonafide restaurant, the company’s new project, The Selkie, opened at St Leonard's Beach in East Sussex this June. Time to plan an oystercation.

Visit oysterboyevents.com

Richard Haward’s Oysters, Borough Market

Apologies to the oyster lovers who pride themselves on their home shucking capabilities but nothing tops watching a real pro. The Haward family has been cultivating oysters around Mersea Island, Essex, for seven generations, and it's been selling them at Borough Market since the early 2000s. The shuckers here are fast and precise, but demand is high, so expect a line of foodies and tourists keen to discover what all the fuss is about.

Try natives, which are large and have a woody flavour, or order cherry stone clams, with their distinctive texture. Look out for oyster deals, especially ones that include medium-sized rocks, which have the best balance between size and flavour. Wash them all down with sparkling wine in a plastic glass for the full market experience.

35 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA, richardhawardsoysters.shop

Furness Fish, Borough Market

This Borough Market fishmonger’s stall is home to the most fascinating display of seafood in town, as well as an oyster bar tucked in the corner. The fishmonger will ask you for your preferences with respect to saltiness, sweetness and taste notes before recommending their choice from Furness Fish’s fine selection, which changes according to the catch of the day. This might include some unusual varieties, such as Utah Beach and Cocollos, while Gillardeau, a favourite among many oyster lovers thanks to its succulent flesh and rounded flavour, often sell out so arrive early if you want to try one.

8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL, morecambebayshrimps.com

Boisdale, Canary Wharf and Belgravia

Scottish restaurant Boisdale is the perfect place to settle in with a large plate of Jersey, Mersea Island, Cumbrae or Lindisfarne rocks, served with a classic mignonette (shallot and red wine vinegar sauce) or Vietnamese dressing, and strike up a conversation with a fellow oyster fan. The oysters here are sold individually, so there’s no need to make sure your companions are on board, plus the decadent décor, low lighting, and extensive menu of brasserie classics give both Boisdale locations the vibe of a private members’ club. A classy night out guaranteed.

Visit boisdale.co.uk

Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen, Covent Garden

Close your eyes and you could be at an authentic seaside restaurant. Open them again and you’ll be in one of London’s buzziest places to enjoy oysters. Oystermen opened in 2017 as a venture by friends Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton, and now boasts Sebastian Luisetto (formerly of La Gavroche) in the kitchen. Hunt out the blackboards for the constantly changing daily specials and rocks selection. The sweet and creamy Louët-Feisser is not to be missed but, for something really special, try the Oyster Martini cocktail: a hedonistic concoction of Oyster 44 vodka, Boxer gin and vermouth poured over a fresh oyster.

32 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA, oystermen.co.uk

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