On a quiet Mayfair Street on a late summer evening, we made our way to the discrete entrance of one of London’s oldest restaurants to spend an evening with a true oyster master. Wilton’s has been a St. James institution since 1742, and this evening — we got the chance to experience an oyster masterclass like no other, marking the beginning of oyster season in true Wilton’s style.
Every Monday from 13 September until April 2022, Wilton’s is offering the rarefied opportunity to partake in an oyster masterclass led by none other than renowned oyster master himself, Tommaso Sicurro.
The two-hour sessions, perfect for both novices and afficionados alike, combine a dozen fresh, cooked and dressed oysters with three delicious English sparkling wines from Nyetimber. With just eight people per session, the intimate masterclasses, which begin with a short history of Wilton’s and Nyetimber, offer a wealth of oyster knowledge, teaching you everything you need to know to become the oyster connoisseur you never knew you could be.
In just under two hours, we learned how to discern an oyster’s freshness through smell and taste, the striking difference between rock oysters and native oysters and the most dignified
way to enjoy one. The method, according to Sicurro, begins with smelling the oyster for freshness, sampling the ‘oyster liquor’ to gage quality, separating the oyster from the shell,
gracefully holding the oyster shell between your thumb and forefinger before tipping the fine, salty oysters into your mouth.
We also sampled a wonderfully fresh selection of oysters from all over the UK. This included freshly shucked rock oysters from Jersey, Poole, West Mersea, and Maldon and native oysters from Falmouth and Cook. While there wasn’t a unanimous favourite oyster between the eight masterclass participants, the Poole Rock oyster stood out for me for its sweet, creamy flavour and texture, with just the right amount of brine.
Moving onto cooked and dressed oysters, we sampled the classic oyster Rockefeller, prepared with a delicious butter sauce and topped with finely chopped spinach and breadcrumbs followed by the scrambled egg and champagne poached oyster with caviar. The latter was a strong contender for favourite amongst our group – a perfect breakfast oyster or one to enjoy with a (very) dirty martini in the late afternoon.
The third cooked oyster came with a deep-fried batter, combined with cucumber and oyster mayonnaise. This was followed by the oyster ‘mignonette’ which served as a kind of palate cleanser before the final two oysters on our menu. Mignonette is a wonderfully zesty, piquant sauce made with vinegar and shallots that really bring the texture and flavours of oyster to life.
Up next was the Isle of Harris gin jelly oyster, which packed a powerful gin punch, without overpowering the delicate oyster texture. Last but not least, we concluded the masterclass with the ‘Christian Dior’ oyster, an off-menu creation that was a favourite of the legendary designer himself. The Christian Dior oyster features a combination of manzanilla sherry, white wine sauce, truffle, and whipped cream and egg yolk. The result? A wonderfully flavourful oyster finale that you won’t soon forget.
No oyster masterclass is complete without a fine selection of bubbles and Nyetimber’s sparkling wines certainly didn’t fail to impress. We started with the Nyetimber Blanc de Blanc, followed by the Classic Cuvee Multi-vintage, and concluded with the Classic Cuvee Vintage from 2009, a rich and complex blend that showcases the best of the best of English sparkling wine.
It’s easy to see why Wilton’s has maintained its impeccable oyster reputation throughout the years. Founded in 1742 by shellfish-monger George William Wilton in Haymarket, Wilton’s
gained its first royal warrant for oysters in 1836 for supplying oysters to Queen Victoria and has served the finest oysters in the country since.
In keeping with the tradition of only eating oysters in the months ending with an ‘r,’ there is no better place in London, or maybe in the whole of the UK, to imbibe and indulge in some quality oysters this season.
The Wilton’s oyster masterclass is can be booked for £85 per person and come with three glasses of Nyetimber English sparkling wine. For more information and to book your spot visit