Essex! : West Mersea Oyster Bar

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Ever since the first time I saw images of Mersea Island‘s eerie landscapes I have been looking forward to visiting it. Set in the outskirts of Colchester, it has admittedly taken me many years to get there (not literally, of course) but today’s visit (the first of many, I am sure) has been worth the wait.

The drive down Colchester, through a small meandering local road has taken us through the Strood, a road connecting the island to the mainland which floods on high tide. The Landscape on both sides of the Strood is shaped by the Estuary of the Blackwater and Colne rivers and it could easily be the backdrop to a Roman Polanski movie.

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Today, middle of February, the weather was a bit unpredictable and so we rather than venturing to the unknown, we have decided to head to the West Mersea Island to the local Oyster bar .

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The appropriately named West Mersea Oyster Bar, which i found through the power of Trip Advisor, has (it seems) been supplying some of the best-known restaurants in town (Sheekey, The Ivy or Brown, for example). It is something of a local hotspot and despite its low-key appearance,  it serves the most delicious food.

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Because the tables inside the bar were completely full when we arrived (at 1pm), we followed the locals and sat outside instead. I must be honest and say that it was not the wisest of ideas, but simply could not have left without sampling some of the many dishes on today’s menu.

I must be honest and say that it was not the wisest of ideas, but we simply could not have left without sampling some of the many dishes on today’s menu.

Before I let you know of out choices, let me point out that at 2 pm the restaurant was much quieter but the menu of the day was also shorter. I would therefore advise booking (LINK)

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I must start with the oysters… which dare I say: are better than the ones you can eat in Whitstable!  (and I LOVE Whitstable oysters). They were fresh and delicate and the local ones in particular, extremely unique.

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The seafood platter (this one is, apparently, for one) had smoked mackerel and salmon, three types of prawns, cockles, mussels, crayfish, pickle herring and half a crab.

If I were to describe each of those individually I doubt I could do them justice, for they were some of the best I have tested in the UK; therefore I will only say that if you go to West Mersea Island, this one should also be on your order.

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The final dish we chose was (no, no cod) hake with chips and mushy peas. I love hake and yet it is not a choice you tend to find in this kind of places. I normally stay well away from any fried butter and, in fact, tend to only eat the fish inside it for the accumulated oil sets off my migraine.

Today’s butter, however,  was not like anything  I had ever tasted before. It was so light, clean and not greasy that I had to eat a whole (small) piece. It was exquisite. (And I am happy to report that, half a day later, I am still feeling fine)

This has been a wonderful discovery and one we will return more than once, I am sure.

Photographs by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Text by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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