London's Best Restaurants For Eating Oysters

By Lydia Manch Last edited 10 months ago
London's Best Restaurants For Eating Oysters
Heroes on a half shell. Photo: Decatur London.

Oysters in London: the lowdown

As soon as the month ends in R, it's G2G on native oyster season, so September marks the start. The more common rock oysters you can find year round: natives take longer to grow, are firmer and usually have a mineral flavour; rock oysters have a creamier flavour, and softer texture.

Tl;dr: they're all good. And Londoners have been eating them for centuries — before they were co-opted by the luxury hospitality market, oysters were a street food in London, and Roman excavations within the Square Mile always turn up a lot of shells.

Sure, there's still a lingering association with luxury and opulence, but recent years have seen a shift. Increasingly pop ups and seafood stalls are shucking them at far more reasonable prices, in far more lowkey settings.

The best places to eat oysters in London

Escocesa, Stoke Newington

Stephen Lironi's second location (after Crouch End's Bar Esteban, before Soho's Maresco) is a small, buzzy spot inspired by a mash-up of Lironi's love of Scottish seafood, roadtrips to Catalunya, and (his words), a 'high level dependency on sherry'.

Their oyster happy hours run till 7pm on weekdays, and all day on Sun. That's £1.50 each for Loch Fyne oysters decorated with a fierce flash of mojo verde. If you need more than low-priced magnificent shellfish to get you there/see you through that sherry list, Spanish and Basque takes on Scottish produce are dished up as tapas-esque small plates, plus a bonus trio of paellas and a fluffy, springy Basque cheesecake that's less of a supporting act, and more of a reason to visit in its own right.

Escocesa, Stoke Newington

Decatur, pop ups and delivery

Image by Decatur.

Decatur, back in the day, were the first to make hot-oyster believers of us. These days we believe hard, and often, but Decatur's cajun spice-dusted, Maldons are still some of the best we've ever had in London. They're topped with garlic and pecorino butter, cooked on a hot grill, and then finished with hot sauce.

They're not running a real kitchen residency for now, and can be hard to find in the wild. But keep a look out for some one-off pop-ups, usually around east London (including a recent Mardi Gras one-nighter at Dina in Leytonstone), which you can track here — and kits for delivery, so you can recreate their chargrilled oysters at home.

Decatur, pop-ups and delivery

Fin and Flounder, Hackney

Proof that oyster-eating in London doesn't have to be a formal, seated vibe, the Broadway Market fishmongers have a stand outside their shopfront where they feverishly shuck and serve some of the best — unadorned, singing with brininess, DIY shallots-and-Tabasco — oysters we've ever found in London. Not surprising, because they supply the fish to restaurants like Brat, Brawn, and Ombra — basically a hitlist of east London restaurants known for their produce. Serving suggestion: order half-a-dozen, and eat them on the street in the spring sunshine, washed down with a half of chilly lager from the Dove's huge tap list across the road. Hypnotic to watch them shuck, joyful to be the reason they're shucking.

Fin and Flounder, Hackney

Louie, Covent Garden

Image by Louie, Covent Garden.

If we're honest, our favourite thing about Louie — the first London outpost from French hospitality group Paris Society International — isn't actually the restaurant at all: it's the with-permission-of-management-only The Alligator Bar hidden several floors up at rooftop level of the big townhouse, serving up Louisiana-slanted cocktails and bluesey house bands. But where better to start the night than a few oysters and some jalapeño-spiked scallops in the lamp-lit glow of Louie downstairs, a French-focused restaurant with a regal raw bar — an excellent place to stack up empty Gillardeau shells faster than they can shuck them.

Louie, Covent Garden

A plate with six oysters laid out in a circle, and half a lemon in the centre
Image: iStock/Boltenkoff

Darby's, Vauxhall

An NYC-inspired oyster bar, surely nowhere so sleek and expensive-looking has ever delivered such an excellent dive bar feel. Looks like Hawksmoor but parties like The Auld Shillelagh; planted in business-park-esque territory opposite the US Embassy in Vauxhall, but a lot more fun than the location suggests: from 5-7pm from Weds-Sat you'll find their oyster happy hour — £1.50 an oyster, or £15 for half a dozen and a pint of Guinness.

Darby's, Vauxhall

Wright Brothers, Battersea, Borough, South Kensington

Their branches come and go — RIP Carnaby afterwork oyster pitstops, perched around an upturned stout barrel — but Wright Bros. are still going strong in Battersea, Borough, and South Ken. Borough Market's the OG, opened in 2005 and, imo, still delivering the best busy, semi-industrial Victorian chophouse feel of the group. Head there Mon-Thurs from 3-6pm for their poorly-kept-secret £1 oyster happy hour.

Wright Brothers, Battersea, Borough, South Kensington

Sweetings, City

Oysters, brown bread and white wine
Sweet oysters at Sweetings. Image by Londonist.

Londoners have been eating West Mersea oysters at Sweetings since 1889, so this City establishment (only open on weekday lunchtimes) knows what it's doing. Enjoy your bivalves with bread and butter, and a lot of Sauvignon de Touraine — this place has been host to languorous liquid lunches for over the century, when customers have traversed the 'Three Steps to Doom'.

Sweetings, City

Claude Bosi at Bibendum, Chelsea

The grande dame of London's old-school French restaurants, with some very grande price tags to match, Bibendum — under the tender touch of Claude Bosi for five years now — swerves the stuffiness that usually comes with pristinely starched tablecloths and astronomical pricing. If you're eating in the restaurant, your options are all set menus and start at about £145 a head, but you can get most of the same grandeur in the oyster bar for a lot less.

Claude Bosi at Bibendum, Chelsea

Image: iStock/FocalHelicopter

Bentley's Oyster and Champagne Bar, Piccadilly

Upstairs Bentley's is a classic, old-school effort, with a members'-club-from-the-early-1900s vibe; downstairs it's a busy oyster bar with a (heated and sheltered) terrace. Both are as expensive as you'd expect from the marble-scattered grandeur, but if you stick to a counter seat at the bar you'll get the best of Bentley's — the people-watching, the live piano, the ye-olde-fanciness — for the price of a (still quite pricey) cold beer and a half-dozen Carlingford rocks. Stats quoted by owner Richard Corrigan in the past put their daily oyster-shucking count at over 1000: good news for diners looking for the reassurance of the freshness promised by a steady oyster churn.

Bentley's Oyster and Champagne Bar, Piccadilly

The introduction includes some original content by Helen Graves.

Last Updated 19 April 2023