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100 Favorite Restaurants: Aw, Shucks

Shaun Tolson

To be the best at shucking oysters, you need power, speed, and finesse, and the staff at Wiltons, a 266-year-old seafood restaurant in London, possesses all three. Led by Patrick Flaherty, the restaurant’s head oysterman for the past 44 years, Wiltons has claimed victory at the British Oyster Opening Championships seven years running and also won the World Oyster Opening Championships in 1999 and 2001.

Winners must open 30 of the bivalves in the least amount of time while making the fewest mistakes. The required presentation of each shucked oyster to the judges will expose carelessness and poor technique. “You score penalty points if you cut the meat [which kills the oyster instantly], and you score penalty points if you get any shell [fragments] into the meat,” explains James Grant, Wiltons’ general manager. “You also get penalty points if you cut yourself and bleed into the oyster.” Grant says the daily experience of working in the busiest oyster bar in London helps Flaherty and his team retain their composure during the pressure-packed competition.

Frederik Lindfors represented Wiltons at the 2007 Brit­ish championships, finishing the task in 4 minutes and 25 seconds. (He did incur penalty points, but officials do not disclose these figures to the contestants.) The Wiltons team went on to place sixth in the world championships by shucking 30 oysters in 3 minutes and 11 seconds.

Wiltons, London, +44.20.7629.9955, www.wiltons.co.uk

Anthony Hamilton Russell of Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus, South Africa, recommends: Chablis Carré de César, Jean Durup, Wiltons label. “For me, the wine suits oysters because of its marked minerality and lively acidity. It allows the succulence of the oysters to shine.”

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Photo by Olivier Pascaud
Copyright by Luc Castel
Photo credit Bonjwing Lee