J SHEEKEY OYSTER BAR: GOING NATIVE
I was walking down St Martin's Lane the other day when a cyclist going the wrong way almost ran into me. As he swerved past I shouted “Get Off And Milk It !” a very common and I think witty phrase to be hurled at all cyclists when I was young. The cyclist turned his head and instead of looking angry he had a half-bemused/half quizzical look on his face which was not what I was expecting at all. I suppose this is what happens when you use forty year-old insults.
I was on my way to J Sheekey Oyster Bar, a small annexe to the main restaurant in St Martin's Court. The style is very similar to the bar next door: wood panels with photos of various thesps, a low ceiling giving a cosy, somewhat cramped feel and in the centre a big horseshoe-shaped bar. There's some waiters taking orders and serving drinks and a couple of chefs shucking the oysters and preparing the shellfish.
The menu is very familiar too offering a good range of raw and cooked stuff. Of course I was just there for the Oysters. I love Oysters and have been eating them for years and years but like good wine and turning left on an aeroplane once you've tasted English Natives it's hard to go back to any other variety.
A dozen West Mersea natives were not cheap but the best I've had this season – the cold weather seems to improve the taste. Although not possessing the length of some Whitstable natives I had last year I'm sure they will improve. I did get one bad one which luckily I could smell before having a chance to scarf it down. It's only about the sixth duff one I've ever had so I'm not doing too badly. It was immediately replaced for two fresh ones without question.
Although I liked my Oysters the experience wasn't as enjoyable as my current favourite bar, Bentley's. There you get some decent bread to nibble on while you wait and because the bar is smaller you can have more banter with the guy (shuckers always seem to be male) opening your bivalves. Still I'm sure it's going to be a big success especially as scoring a res for the restaurant is proving increasingly problematical.
Rammed when I arrived everyone seemed to leave en masse, on the dot, at a quarter past seven. I did fear my personal grooming regime was lacking of late, but all was made clear when I looked at the back of the menu. Altogether now: Mama Mia, here I go again, My my, how can I resist you...(repeat until you lose the will to live).