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Shell Game

Where to find the best oysters on Sloane Street for Valentine’s Day

9 February 2024

Alexandra Dudley is a writer, editor and Come For Supper podcast host championing her love of food and art. She is a contributor to SheerLuxe, Citizen Femme and Soho House. In time for Valentine’s Day, we asked her to fill us in on the many benefits of oysters and the best places to enjoy the aphrodisiac delicacy on Sloane Street.

Fondly referred to as ‘the food of love’, oysters have held a reputation as a heady aphrodisiac since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Whether it is true or not is debatable, but many scientists agree that the consumption of oysters may lead to a boost in the happy hormone, serotonin. I am of the belief that a happy stomach leads to a happy heart and one thing that is for certain, is that most of us love oysters. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, these are my top three spots to enjoy them on and around Sloane Street.

Azzurra

Pairing the freshest British seafood with the stunning simplicity of Italian cooking, Azzurra is the place to go if you are craving the taste of summer (who isn’t?). With its bright, sand-tone interiors and plush ocean-blue seats, those blissfully long seaside lunches suddenly don’t seem so far away. Served with Amalfi lemon wedges, the oysters here come served with a ramekin of Amalfi lemon granita. Azzurra advises its guests to use a fork to scrape the top of the granita, creating the authentic icy texture that pairs so well with oysters. One zingy bite is enough to make you forget that it is still winter in England and for the afternoon (or at least for the duration of lunch) you are in Italy. 

Elsewhere on the menu, the ‘boat-to-table’ ethos means that seafood at Azzurra is served mere hours after the catch. There is grilled Dover sole, fritto misto of calamari, red mullet and sardines with roasted garlic mayo, and of course, there are oysters. Azzurra uses Carlingford rock oysters, known for their juicy meatiness and unique sweet taste. 

For a limited time only just in time for Valentine’s Day, Azzurra will be dishing up oysters another way too. As part of its five-course San Valentino menu, canapés will include oysters crisped in a delicate batter served alongside passion fruit gel and fresh dill.

Azzurra, 127 – 128 Sloane St, London SW1X 9AS. Book at azzurrarestaurant.co.uk 
Azzurra

Colbert

If you can’t get to Paris, lunch at Colbert is the next best thing. Inspired by the great boulevard cafés of the city of love, the menu features all the French classics and an excellent prix fixe offering. Oysters are served the classic way here and arrive on an ice-adorned stand alongside shallot vinegar, lemon in muslin, and two types of Tabasco (red pepper and green jalapeño). Guests can choose between Irish or French with both Carlingford rock oysters (Irish) and Ostra Regal rock oysters (French) on the menu. My advice is to order half a dozen of each alongside a bottle of Pommery Brut Royal to share. 

There is a vibrant buzz at Colbert that feels innately Parisian. Every inch of the walls is covered in vintage art exhibition and film posters or black-and-white photographs of Hollywood stars. Glossy burgundy booths occasionally erupt with a thunder of laughter from guests recalling the latest city gossip while impeccably dressed waiters dart through the dining room balancing trays of frosted-glass martinis, soufflé Suisse and pommes frites with the grace and poise of ballerinas. Naturally, Colbert has amassed a loyal family of patrons ranging from the glamourous and chic to the gloriously eccentric. 

What is rather lovely about the oysters at Colbert is that they are priced individually, meaning that even if you are dining solo you can mix and match them to suit your appetite. If you are lucky enough to get a table outside you are bound to strike up a conversation with a fellow diner, and who knows, perhaps they are ‘the one’.

Colbert, 50-52 Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AX; colbertrestaurant.com
Colbert

The Aubrey

As date-night spots go, you would be hard pushed to find somewhere better than The Aubrey. Shayne Brady and Emily Williams of BradyWilliams are responsible for the velvety rich design. Think ruby red loveseats, glossy marble bar-tops and chocolatey wood-panelled walls punctuated with soothing black ink drawings. The soft toffee-hued lighting is the sort that makes everyone look more beautiful and the cocktail menu is so good you will be bound to stay for a nightcap. Recognised as one of London’s best Japanese restaurants, the menu at The Aubrey features expertly crafted sushi made with rice sourced from Hokkaido in Japan and red vinegar made from ginjo sake. 

As you would expect, the oysters at The Aubrey are far from standard. House oysters are served by the half-dozen with either chilli daikon and ponzu, or salmon roe and white ponzu. If you are committed to the clean oyster, The Aubrey also serves them individually as you prefer, and you can choose from Irish, Market Daily or Japanese. The melt-in-the-mouth butteriness that finishes with an umami kick from the salmon roe and white ponzu made that option by far my favourite. Even if you are a stickler for a squeeze of lemon, I recommend trying at least one of the house variations – because no love story ever began without someone taking a chance. 

The Aubrey, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA; theaubreycollection.com 
The Aubrey

The best of the rest

High-end fish shop by day, seafood bar by night, The Sea, The Sea at 174 Pavilion Road makes for a cosy and intimate date night. There’s a daily changing menu of sharing small plates showcasing fresh British seafood, plus excellent cocktails and natural wine. Rock oysters can be ordered by the half-dozen and are served simply with a splash of zingy beetroot vinaigrette. 

Also specialising in seafood with a distinctly Italian vibe is Al Mare (translating to “at the sea”), The Carlton Tower Jumeirah’s flagship restaurant. Its rock oysters are sourced from the Royal Bay of Grouville in Jersey, an area famed for its nutrient-rich waters that translates to unique, delicately flavoured oysters. 

Finally, take a leaf from Lillie Langtry’s book – the original Chelsea socialite famous for her beauty and illicit love affairs – and pull up a pew at The LaLee, The Cadogan, A Belmond Hotel’s opulent bar and restaurant. Named after Langtry, whose former address at 21 Pont Street is now part of the hotel, the modern European bar menu includes half a dozen fresh oysters, which you can also order individually should the mood take you and your Valentine. 

The LaLee

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