Whitstable is well known for its seafood and no more so than during its annual Oyster Festival which takes place in July. Well this is too good for a Gills Gal to miss so we headed down to check it out (and see how many oysters we could eat in one sitting).
We got the train from Victoria (as it was easier for us South Londoners), which took just over an hour and a quarter. Pretty decent value too for £23 quid return (only booking the day before) and you could easily get this for a much cheaper rate. Once you arrive into the town it’s about a 10 minute walk down to the seafront and the centre of town.
The event itself
When we looked up the event there was a lot written about how there had been too much change to the festival this year. These changes included shortening the festival and also moving the main festival hub slightly out of town to Tankerton Slopes. Whilst we don’t have anything to compare it to, being Oyster Festival virgins, it did feel like there was a distinct difference between the two sites. The centre of town was absolutely buzzing and every turn we took there was another seafood shack selling some of Whitstable’s finest. However, when we walked up to Tankerton it was so much busier, but also felt a lot less authentic. Whilst the selection of food was good it felt to odd to barely have any oysters or seafood here and instead focus on the likes of burgers and pizza. It certainly felt at odds with the town centre.
Here they also had a stage featuring live music which was a pleasant space to spend some time, but we didn’t stay long before walking back into the town and getting back into the seafood action.
You are seriously spoiled for choice in Whitstable when it comes to seafood. We walked along the seafront and sampled a number of oysters including a giant (and I mean giant) oysters from The Forge, as well as some of the normal sized Whitstable oysters. It was lovely to stroll along and see everywhere so busy and to watch lots of oyster shucking. The best spot we found on the seafront here was West Whelks.
On the harbour we discovered a Gills Gal’s dream. West Whelks was serving up platters of seafood for prices so cheap I nearly fainted. We had a plate of whitebait, crab claws and some fries for a total of four quid! These were so tasty and a taste of the proper British seaside. They had everything you could imagine at their stand and I would happily go back and spend an entire afternoon there, but we did need to explore the rest of the town.
Our favourite spot
My favourite place to eat of the weekend, and somewhere I am definitely returning for dinner, was the Lobster Shack. Set right on the seafront, beyond the harbour, it was surrounded by sea and was buzzing with people. Inside everyone was tucking into seafood platters, which looked INSANE, but we wanted to make the most of the weather so headed outside. Here we ordered a pot of moules, some fries and you guessed it, some more oysters. The fries were perfect and the moules full of flavour (mainly lots of garlic). Again for such a cheap price (11 quid for the lot) you really can’t go wrong. Sitting outside in the great British summer (i.e. sunny but raining), it was a perfect way to end our seafood tour of Whitstable.
We will definitely try and head back next year, and hopefully stay the weekend (we have our eye on the converted fisherman’s huts along the front). Hopefully the new organisers will take on board some of the feedback and make next year’s even better ☺