Seafood Si: The Lobster Shack, Whitstable

Every family has it’s favourite phrases don’t they? There’s a very apt one here at Moregeous HQ which begins with my darling and long lost Mia Cat, passes 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 Mia 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 I’ll certainly traverse great distances and make complex detours in search of a five star seafood platter.

Travelling across the UK at the moment working on Your Home Made Perfect 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.

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Let me tell you about my new found love of Whitstable, particularly the East Quay  Lobster Shack.

It was late when we arrive. I mean, really late. Dark. Even though the sun had set, the setting is magical, right on the edge of 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.

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As we run down the quay, well, he striding purposefully with 6’3″ legs and me scurring behind with my 5’4″s, I’d already rung ahead to check the Lobster Shack, recommended by several InstaPals, is still open. They close at 9. It’s a quarter to. Restaurants hate people like us, but to be fair, we’ve just finished another 300 mile drive and, you know, roadworks. It would be been totally understandable for the staff to point us in the direction of a chowder and some crusty bread, but they don’t. They are, 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.

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Not a problem comes the reply. I could kiss her. Bless his cotton hat, the chef looks ruefully at his pristinely wiped steel surface, smiles at us and starts shucking shells again.

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We are 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. Half a dozen local Whitstable rock oysters start us off 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, two decades of enjoyment following my first one at the 1995 BBC Good Food Show, my favourite oyster. The lobster is chin wipingly delicious too, scoffed with chips and butter dribbling. The homemade dips are a smashing touch.

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Quite apart from the location, which blows away all the cobwebs from non-seaside city dwellers, just everything about this particular Lobster Shack is great. The open serving area, the friendly staff who couldn’t be more welcoming, the long trestle tables, the cool internal space with vaulted ceilings and warm timber finishes. Love it, love it all. Of course you don’t have to splash out on lobster and the platter, but we kinda figure this is our chance to go wild in Whitstable and enjoy a taste of locally sourced and landed freshness. If we make it back there one day the skate will be on my To Try list. And more of those oysters. So many more of those oysters. Many apologies that my photos are a bit bobbins, it’s been a long day and that first glass of wine robs me of any snapping skills. Hopefully you get that we’re having a ball, enjoying 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’s a spot on foodie weekend break. Throw in a stay in the Captain’s Cottage about ten minutes walk from the shack, and you can’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!

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Next up on Si’s Seafood tour is a sojourn in Stirling – anyone got any top tips?? x

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