Test Driving The Oystermen - the Covent Garden seafood restaurant makes great use of its extra space

tempuraThe tempura oysters - with champagne aioli and smoked herring caviar (£8). A must-have if you're not too sure about the raw oysters - and it's pretty hard to resist Champagne aioli. 

What can you tell us about The Oystermen?

Once a roving pop-up (with a big focus on oysters, of course), The Oystermen settled down in Covent Garden in 2017 with a permanent restaurant. The restaurant still offers plenty of oysters, of course, but they've also expanded the menu significantly with an ever-changing seafood menu, led by the contents of the day's catch. 

And why visit now?

We somehow missed visiting The Oystermen in their first incarnation in Covent Garden, a tiny restaurant but one which quickly won plaudits from public and critics alike (quickly impressing Giles Coren). A little over a year after opening, they were given an opportunity that doesn't come very often at all for London restaurants - the option to almost double their size by taking on the space next door.

After a few months' worth of refurbishment, they've reopened the bigger restaurant, with a new raw bar counter added for good measure. It's still possible to see where the footprint of the previous restaurant was and it's clear that the restaurant really was quite tiny before. Post refurb, it's clearly grown quite a bit - but still retains the feel of a small cosy place. 

Where are they?

The restaurant is on Henrietta Street - just a few short steps from the main Covent Garden piazza. Either Charing Cross or Covent Garden itself work as the nearest tube. 

Where can we meet for a drink first?

On this occasion, we took the opportunity to head back to Red Farm on the other side of the piazza. At the top floor of the restaurant is a hidden away cocktail bar, Toots and Hoots, serving up some wonderful cocktails. it's a very useful place to know if other Covent Garden bars are full. We'd also recommend a trip to Lady of the Grapes wine bar just around the corner on Maiden Lane.

Where should we sit?

Any seat in either of the main restaurant sections will do (although we did like the area which had a view into the tiny kitchen) and there are quite a few counter spaces by the wine bar and also stools by the window. So, with that in mind, it's also a good place to pop in for some solo dining if you're passing by. 

We should start with oysters, yes?

It's right there in the name - so, yes. The oysters are either served cooked (if raw puts you off - you should definitely look at this section), or you can look at the daily boards to see what's available on any day. With that in mind, here's what we went for...

oystersA pair of the oysters available on our visit. These were Kumamoto. Obviously extremely fresh, and come with "champonzu" wasabi and shiso (£7 for two). 

And what should we eat?

Given the nature of any seafood restaurant, expect a menu that's driven by what's been caught. So you'll see variants on what we were served at any time. The menu is split into key sections though - snacks, starters, mains and sides - and that separate section for oysters, of course.

In addition to what you'll see below, the Old Bay seasoned chips are a must to go alongside (£3.50) and we also liked the look of the smoked cods roe and the curried squid on the snacks section too. Here's what we had on the night... 

aranciniThe white fish arancini and madras mayo (£5) - perfect snacking food while you're going over the menu. 

crabPortland crab thermidor, chilli, fennel and toast (£10) - and a very decent portion of it too - a dish that can easily be shared. 

squidDorset squid, n'duja and zhoug broth with baby gem (£9) - just the thing if you're in need of a little warmth in the winter months. That n'duja gives the whole dish a delicate spicy kick without overwhelming it. 

codPan-fried Scottish cod, white bean and sesame cream, portobello mushrooms and garlic (£21). The kitchen has a strong hand on its fish cooking - this was done perfectly - and that cream's pretty wonderful too. 

hakeRoasted halibut, Jerusalem artichoke, grilled hispi cabbage, chicken broth, thyme (£24) - almost too beautiful to eat. Delicate and delicious.

How about dessert?

We were almost at the point of sharing a dessert but were persuaded to try both of the dishes on offer (with a cheese plate available too). This proved to be a very good decision...

peachRoast peaches, white chocolate mousse, caramelised white chocolate (£8.50) - for someone who doesn't hold with cooked fruit, this dessert proved to be a gamechanger.

tarrtAlmond tart, red wine poached blackberries, malt cream (£7.50) - a surprisingly light tart and that malt cream is excellent. 

And what about drink?

There's a decently-sized two-pager wine list (with plenty of sparking and Champagne on there too). Over half of the 20+ whites are available by the glass (175 ml) and prices start at £19.00 - with seven bottles £30 or under at the time of writing  - or up to £80 if you're splashing out. 

Overall thoughts 

It's taken us longer than we'd hoped to visit The Oystermen, having heard nothing but praise for this small Covent Garden seafood spot. The expansion has clearly done it no end of good, with a lovely vibe throughout. Whether you're perching at the counter for snacks and oysters or trying their impressive seafood menu - we think this is a great little Covent Garden restaurant that's just become even better. 


More about The Oystermen Seafood Bar and Kitchen

Where is it? 32 Henrietta Street, London WC2E 8NA

How to book: Call 020 7240 4417

Find out more: Visit their website or follow The Oystermen on Twitter @theoystermen and Instagram @theoystermen

Hot Dinners dined as guests of the restaurant. Prices correct at time of publication.


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