A few years ago, two university friends of my husband told us about a little seaside town in Kent called Whitstable. They described it as “the place to go” to eat good oysters; however, despite various attempts to organize a joint visit … It did not materialize.
To make matters worst, last year, as my office went to Whitstable for the summer outing, however, work commitments forced me to stay behind, on my own, and miss out a well deserved treat.
It was frustrating and rather unfair; but as the Project Runner the responsibility to deliver some last minute requests by the Project Manager fell on me. The job had to be done in order to meet the targets agreed by the clients.
Luckily for me, a month later, as my parents came to London during the Paralympics, we spotted a bargain property in nearby Margate at an auction and decided to explore the area with the intention of adventuring into the seafood paradise that Whitstable had , by then, become in our own minds.
Last weekend we returned for more as we loved it first time around . We took the bikes on the train from Kings Cross and off we went. After all, not having had any summer holidays yet, a day by the sea seemed the closest we could achieve.
Whitstable is a lively fishermen town with a large community of artists too. It has a wonderful harbor which includes a fish Market, a beach and many lovely streets .
Alongside the harbor there are many shops that sell fish and seafood, however… Tip : look at this picture carefully because this place sells delicious oysters for 60p. They are called West Whelks and they sell lovely seafood to either eat around their stall at the West Quay or to take home.
I have tried various places but this one gets top marks. Low key , lovely efficient service and delicious produce. The oyster are sweet and the generous crab legs are a treat.
Last weekend was the traditional Town Regatta and in addition to the regatta itself, as part of the Olympic legacy, Art-on-Sea’ ( a floating art gallery devised and delivered by White Horses Whitstable) was launched.
The thing about Whitstable is that it is full of loveliness. Everywhere you look there is a picture waiting to be snapped. By the way, I should probably explain that all these images have been taken with my phone in case anyone wondered.
The next gastronomic stop was the Lobster Shack @. East Quay. Ever since we passed in front to its windows , last summer, we wanted to taste their fish and seafood. This in fact was a very exciting part of the day.
We did consider a platter (the one on the picture , by the way, is for 1 person), but decided against it.
Eventually we went for the grilled lobster and grilled local cod. The produce was delicious but it pains me to say that the cooking did not match it. The fish has soggy skin and was not seasoned, the chips were “ready made style” and despite the the lobster being great , we were left hungry.
Whitstable is a lovely town where the streets are full of authentic local shops. We noticed that all of them seem to have come together embracing this local example of street art by Catman which features a diver shopping… They have even made a limited edition of canvas bags with the image which they sell everywhere just short of six quid.
Carole Ridley was a great find. Their collection is almost too cool for a seaside town I dare say. The structured lines, materials and textures which are present in Japanese or even Scandinavian designs seem to have landed in Whitstable and looking around the shop you get the impression that you will find a gem.
Another shop that I found interesting was French. An interesting contemporary deco shop. From textiles to lighting or accessories they have pretty much everything that a house needs with a touch of France.
Amongst other things, the lamps caught my eye. Made out of an interesting mix of old and new they would make interesting pieces in any house. I also found a set of wall candelabras made by recycling old arabic tiles and adding a small plate like element.
Whitstable is full of cutesy timber buildings which are carefully maintained. Its streets are inspiring and full of character.
Our final gastronomic stop was at the first restaurant to open in town… The Wheelers Oyster Bar is an institution in Whitstable and this becomes very apparent by watching the constant flow of customers going in and out one of the smallest restaurants I have seen in a long while.
Food was incredible. We ate at the bar : oysters, salmon and courgette flan and crab. The oysters were a different type to the ones we tasted earlier. Less sweet, more mature. The flan was simply delicious and the freshness of the crab was second to none. Worth noting that the crab came with a plate of two types of delicious bread accompanied by a home made fresh pesto which was a lovely touch.
They do not have an alcohol license bur you can bring your own wine, which you can purchase from The Offi, the off license opposite the oyster bar. If there ever was a more perfect synergy, you tell me! The off license, by the way, has the most imaginative selection of delicious wines!
There were many things I liked about The Wheelers’ of Whitstable ; the main one being the product knowledge and honesty of the people working at the oyster bar. They would ask people taking oysters away if they will eat them within the next half an hour to ensure freshness, cut open the take away crabs to make sure that they are not wet , know the prices and weights of pretty much everything by heart… True professionals.
Photography by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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