It was wonderful to kick off my first Coastal Cuisine film with a visit to Mersea Island in Essex. I was lucky to arrive just as the ancient road which connects the island to the mainland flooded, cutting the island off. As I waited for the tide to wane, I chatted to some visitors to Mersea who had arrived, like me, for the seafood – especially the oysters, which are world-renowned.
My fishing trip with Oysterman Allan Bird was an experience I’ll never forget. Allan has been fishing the Mersea waters since the 1960s and is a much-respected member of the fishing community on Mersea. It was fascinating to find out about the traditions of Oyster fishing and how very little has changed in hundreds of years.
On our trip, we were helped by several local people who volunteered their time because they care passionately about the oysters and the fishing community. Oysterman William Baker ([email protected]) lent us his boat, boat-builder Chris Dawson, who offers the public tours of the Mersea waters, lent us another boat for the crew (www.swiftline-marine.com). Bev Perkins, who runs the Mersea Food Festival (www.mersea-fdl-festival.com), provided a huge amount of expertise and local knowledge – to all those people – we are extremely grateful!
I must also mention Mersea Vineyard and Brewery (www.merseawine.com), where Mark Barber and his dad, Roger, introduced me to something totally different – Oyster Stout. The family borrowed the recipe from America, and it makes a fantastic accompaniment to the oysters. Also, make wonderful coffee, well worth a look.
This gets me onto one of the highlights of my trip –tasting the oysters. At the West Mersea Oyster Bar (www.westmerseaoysterbar.co.uk), Head Chef Chris Avila and his business partner Sel Yucer serve the oysters with shallot onions and a little red wine vinegar, which is simple yet perfect. We were so grateful for their hospitality, and I hope it won’t be too long before I’m back in Essex to experience the seafood once more.
And one more thank you to Jo at Leeward House Bed and Breakfast (www.leewardwestmersea.co.uk), who donated some last-minute wasabi for my own oyster recipe. Shucked and gently warmed in their own juices topped with wasabi mayonnaise, simple and tasty.
Mersea was a wonderful, friendly little place – and it’s got me very excited about my next stop – Scotland! www.swiftline-marine.com