The most sought-after foods tend to divide opinion — and for good reason. The truffle, pulled from the dirt, often by a pig, can be overwhelming, caviar leaves many cold, and it’s best not to think about how foie gras is produced.
The oyster is summed up by author Jonathan Swift: ‘He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.’
But I’m not so sure about that. Standing at the water’s edge at Jersey’s Royal Bay of Grouville, in the torrential rain, I’m looking forward to trying one and learning about its unique taste and texture.
Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey, where 3D images of the Queen adorn the walls
I’m visiting the island’s largest oyster farm, Seymour Oyster, run by John and Shannon Le Seelleur. It has beds extending over 13 hectares and comprises around 14 million oysters.
John, a 17th-generation farmer and island native, says working the sea is just like working the land. Looking at the uniform rows of oyster beds running along the beach, it’s difficult to disagree.
John’s rock oysters go to the Dorchester, Borough Market, France and beyond.
They’re salty, fresh and, while perhaps not an aphrodisiac, they’re certainly energising.
John explains the two-to-three-year process from seed to harvest, as Shannon teaches me how to ‘shuck’ an oyster — wiggle, don’t push. John likes to eat his plain, or grilled on the barbecue so they steam inside their shells, then brushed with garlic butter. Shannon adds balsamic vinegar, red shallots and chillies to hers.
Jersey is also home to the rarer, rounder, sweeter native oysters. Sadly, 95 per cent of all UK natives disappeared due to over-fishing in the 19th century, but re-cultivation efforts are now under way. After our tour, we visit spectacular Mont Orgueil Castle, where 3D images of the Queen adorn the walls.
St Brelade’s Bay, which shares a seafront with the Winston Churchill Memorial Park
They were created from portraits by local photographer Chris Levine in 2004 to celebrate 800 years since Jersey split from the Duchy of Normandy.
Being British but removed from the mainland puts Jersey and its 106,000 inhabitants in an interesting position.
It’s not part of the UK, but it is a British isle, governed by its own parliament — the States Assembly.
During World War II, it was the only part of the British Isles to be occupied.
The island waited long after D-Day, until May 1945, for liberation, but no one seems to hold a grudge.
Delicacy: Oysters are a part of Jersey’s culinary scene. Seymour Oyster farm has over 13 hectares of beds with around 14 million oysters
Indeed, St Brelade’s Bay Hotel, where we are staying, shares a seafront with the Winston Churchill Memorial Park. It also overlooks one of south Jersey’s sweeping crescent moon beaches. It’s a real charmer.
When, one morning, I saunter through reception in my swimming trunks, heading to the beach for a dip, and passing a sea of anoraks, umbrellas and waterproof trousers, no one bats an eyelid.
Naturally, in the evenings, we sample the Seymour oysters in two excellent restaurants, Sumas and The Oyster Box, both of which have views over the 14-mile stretch of sea that separates Jersey and Normandy.
On our final day, solid rain draws in, but it doesn’t trouble us. The weather in Jersey may be changeable, but the oysters are always reliable.
Hugo travelled with Visit Jersey (jersey.com). BA (ba.com) flies Gatwick to Jersey from £76 return. B&B Doubles at the St Brelade’s Bay Hotel from £220 per night (stbreladesbayhotel.com). Hertz (hertzci.com) rental cars from £72.29 for the weekend.