Every family has it’s favourite phrases don’t they? There’s a very apt one here at Moregeous HQ which began with my darling and long lost Mia Cat, has been passed onto Builder Cat and is also totally applicable to me: “Prawn Whore”. The dusty corners of my memory are telling me it was first coined by work colleague turned pal Hannah in the midst of a Christmas shoot here over a decade ago in a desperate attempt to get her to remain sitting in shot. It involved much crustacean bribery. Not daft, that cat. And just like the Moregeous moggies, I’ll do anything for a prawn. Ok, not anything, but certainly traverse great distances and make complex detours in search of a five star platter.
Travelling across the UK at the moment working on several TV show renovations can only therefore mean one foodie option: local shellfish specials. Luckily quite a few of the projects are close to the sea – Margate, Faversham, Stockton and Stirling. Why luckily?Because the closer the restaurant to the sea, the fresher the catch. Whatever anyone says about inner city seafood gaffs, it’s always been my experience that if you can smell the salt water from the table, you’re more likely to have fabulous fish.
I knew from earlier this year of a cracking seafood shack in Tynemouth – Riley’s Fish Shack – as we did a 300 mile round trip there for a Valentine’s lunch. See, I told you, a complete willingness to do serious mileage for a mussel. So that’s the Stockton lunch sorted when we visit next week.
What I didn’t know, and had I known before now I might have moved there twenty years ago, is that Whitstable, right down on the North Kent coast, is Prawn Whore heaven. Us Northerners don’t know stuff like this because, well, we live nowhere near. And you Southerners, you clearly keep stuff like this a secret.
Let me tell you about my new found love of Whitstable, particularly the East Quay Lobster Shack.It was late when we arrived. I mean, really late. Even though it was almost dark the setting was magical, right there on the shingle beach, the smell of salt in the air and barely anyone around. Magical but hurried. Even my photos are blurred from the jog.
As we ran down the quay, well, he strode purposefully with his 6’3″ legs and I scurried behind with my 5’4″s, I’d already rung ahead to check the Lobster Shack, recommended by several InstaPals, was still open. They closed at 9. It was a quarter to. Restaurants hate people like us, but to be fair, we’d just finished another 300 mile drive and, you know, roadworks.It would have been totally understandable had the staff pointed us in the direction of a chowder and some crusty bread, but they didn’t. They were, in fact, absolutely bloody marvellous. Are you totally sure it’s ok for us to have the platter I asked, silently willing a yes but expecting a 9pm sorry-we’re-all-out-of-shellfish No.
Not a problem came the reply. I could’ve kissed her.Bless his cotton hat, the chef looked ruefully at his pristinely wiped steel surface, smiled at us and got shucking shells again.
We were all systems platter a go-go!!And what a platter. Tangy rollmops (my favs & Mr M doesn’t like them – BONUS), fat ribbons of smoked salmon, succulent shrimps, chunky squares of mackerel, several sweet Whitstable oysters and winking at on the top, half a lobster each. My idea of heaven. Complete heaven. We’d already started off with six oysters and here’s the thing. I’ve never tasted oysters so sweet. We’ve had them on a platter on the Irish coast, in posh London restaurants, and fresh from the sea in Canada, all fabulous in their own way, but these little beauties, these hit a real spot for me. Something about the sweet flavour and the plump meatiness which cried out to be chewed, unlike some other oysters which are better (for me) swallowed whole. Not too creamy. So far, after two decades enjoying them after trying my first one at the BBC Good Food Show in 1995, my favourite oyster.The lobster was just delicious too, scoffed with chips and fingers licked. And the homemade dips – a smashing touch.
Quite apart from the location, which blew away all the cobwebs from these non-seaside city dwellers, just everything about this particular Lobster Shack is great. The open serving area, the friendly staff who couldn’t have been more welcoming, the long trestle tables, the cool internal space with it’s vaulted ceilings and warm timber finishes. Loved it, loved it all. Of course you don’t have to splash out on lobster and have the platter, but we kinda figured this was our chance to go wild in Whitstable and enjoy a taste of locally sourced and landed freshness. If we make it back there I think the skate will be on my To Try list. And more of those oysters. So many more of those oysters. Sorry that my photos are a bit bobbins, it’d been a long day and that first glass of wine robbed me of any snapping skills. Hopefully you get that we had a superb time, ate superb food and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this ace place to anyone finding themselves in this part of England. In fact, having spent two days in this pretty little Kent coastal town, I’d say it was a spot on foodie weekend break. Throw in a stay in the Captain’s Cottage about ten minutes walk from the shack, and you couldn’t go far wrong really.Here are some *much* better images snaffled from the Lobster Shack’s Instagram which just make me want to jump right back in the car and head back there!Next up on Si’s Seafood tour might well be a sojourn in Stirling – anyone got any top tips?? x