Can anyone explain why snails (rubbery gastropod mollusks) and oysters (grey, slimey, mucus-textured bivalve mollusks) are considered a delicacy to eat?
Surely something that‘s so chewy, tasteless and inedible that it must be buried in garlic butter or another overpowering flavour before you can force it down your throat, is best avoided?
Deriving any pleasure from eating (gargling on) either of these mollusks is beyond me. I’ll never be converted to snails but I do wonder if I’m missing out on something where oysters are concerned. They’re expensive and popular – there must be something special about them surely?
I’m keeping an open mind and would genuinely like to be converted. So where better to try than in the beautiful – and surprisingly scorching hot – outdoors of Battersea Park? I’m at the Foodies Festival, a festival which celebrates the “finest in local, seasonal produce, speciality food and drink, culinary and restaurant talent”.
There are stalls of local restaurants offering taster portions of signature dishes (including Bennett Oyster Bar), a Harvey Nichols food market, a hugely popular Hendrick’s gin stand and other stalls serving Thai, Caribbean, Spanish and Indian food as well as all types of British. There’s also a Great Taste Market (for stallholders who’ve been awarded a Great Taste Award by the The Guild of Fine Food, for their produce in the last three years).
My friend H – who, it turns out, loves oysters and rises to the challenge of converting me – puts in an order for some. The stallholder asks which type we’d like: there’s one type from the Thames Estuary that she describes as “wild” and “exciting”, the other from the Jersey sea which is “classic” and “milky”. I know which I like the sound of most and it doesn’t involve anything out of the Thames.
H orders a portion of each while I refresh our prosecco glasses from Gastro Nicks.
The oysters are served in their shells (sliced and ready to slide), in a little salty water, covered in pickle and with a wedge of lemon (to take away the bad taste afterwards?).
I slip down a Thames oyster first. It’s not an enjoyable experience. It just tastes of swallowing a mouthful of salty sea-water with something latex caught up in it…
Swiftly moving on to the Jersey Rock oyster, this is abundantly more pleasurable. The taste is less harsh, less rough (or am I just getting used to the flavours – is it an acquired taste?), and, as the lady said, more milky.
Maybe I was the last to know but I’ve learnt that there are different types of oysters and that they vary in taste, texture and quality/ grade. I’m not claiming to be converted yet but I will keep an open mind.
I would have Jersey Rock again and anything a grade or two above (probably Scottish).
Venturing from liquids to solids, there are a couple of enticing pie and meat stands. And Orchard Pigs has the edge, with their tractor wheel pork pies.
I’m not a huge pork pie fan but I fell in love with the Druids pie (pork, Druids Ale, mustard seed, sage, pepper and nutmeg) the moment I saw it. Not only is the pastry less thick and dry (no lardy jelly either) than regular round pork pies but there’s a wonderful mix of ingredients complementing the premium pork.
I swear I can smell this pie just by looking at the picture. It was absolutely delicious and quite probably the best pork pie in the kingdom. (I also bought black pudding and apple pork pies for another day – these tractor wheel pastry edges and different flavours may have revitalised the traditional old pork pie but nothing beats the Druid).
A good few hours very well spent. As are the contents of my purse.
~ What: Foodies Festival website
~ Where: Battersea Park, London
~ When: July 19th, 30th + 31st 2011
Types: British, Spanish, Caribbean, Thai, Indian, seafood – many varieties!
~ Nearest rail stations: Battersea Park, Queenstown Road
Great Taste Market – select stalls:
~ Bennett Oyster Bar + Brasserie – Thames oysters (nay!) + Jersey Rock (yay!)
~ d Vine Wine
~ Gastro Nicks – prosecco, wines, olive oil + balsamic vinegars
~ Orchard Pigs – pork pies with a difference
~ The Guild of Fine Food + Great Taste Awards
Filed under: Celebrity chefs, Food + drink (general), International, LardButty food / restaurant reviews, London by day Tagged: | Battersea, Battersea Park, Bennett Oyster Bar, Druid pork pie, Foodies Festival, Gastro Nicks, Great Taste Award, Great Taste Market, Guild of Fine Food, Jersey Rock, Lardbutty, London, Orchard Pigs, oysters, prosecco, snails, SW11, SW11 4JP, Thames Estuary, tractor wheel pork pies