If you are hungry and you love all sorts of seafood then you could not do better than head for the West Mersea Oyster Bar. In spite of its rather remote location it is a very popular restaurant.
From the road the West Mersea Oyster Bar looks much like any reasonable beachside chippie anywhere in England. Step inside however and any perceptions of ordinariness quickly fall away. I was immediately impressed by the fact that at 1.30pm on a cold, midweek, winter afternoon most of the tables were taken and that more customers piling in the door behind me. The next thing I noticed was the menu. It not only listed seven or eight fish and shellfish items, plus a whitebait starter, on a 'specials' board but also described a further ten or so delicious options, such as scallops, on the conventional, 'table top' card. Finally, the third thing I noticed was the food. Happy customers were tucking into crispy battered fish and chips, lovely red lobsters, fat prawns, homemade scampi and, of course, fresh oysters. Some of the portions served were enormous. A table of four beside me were stunned into silence when their plates of cod, chips and peas arrived. ( I think they were wondering whether they would be able to tackle perhaps half of the superb looking food they were receiving when they saw the huge fillets of golden battered fish on their plates.)
My wife and I loved everything we ate. I tried the smaller, local, 'Colchester' oysters as a starter. They were juicy and had that tang of the sea which only raw oysters have. I found the shallot pickle with which they were served a little overpowering, and opted not to bother with it, but I may be fussy. The main thing is, the oysters were really fresh. I then went on to the prawns for my main course whilst my wife had the scampi and chips. Her scampi were good but her chips were perfect.(I pinched most of them!) Double, or triple, cooked, they had crunchy, crispy outsides hiding soft, comforting interiors. At first I couldn't eat my prawns as they were smothered in really hot and beautifully caramelised butter so I left them to cool down a bit and tackled the accompanying salad. The salad was simple but fresh. When I got to the prawns they tasted meaty and flavoursome. I presume they came from the cold waters of The North Sea rather that the overheated coasts of Asia; seven thousand air-miles away. For pudding I risked the curiously spelt "lemon cello". I often ignore things sweet but this was a pudding to die for. It was light, (like a cross between a sorbet and an ice-cream) and very, very lemony. Scrummy. I wish I had had the courage to insist the chef tell me how to make it.
Both of us left The West Mersea Oyster Bar feeling well fed. When we return we will bring a table cloth, a candle and a couple of cushions so this brilliant restaurant feels less like a chippie.
Wine was available.
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