Our visit to the Oyster Creek Kitchen
Not that we eat out much and our visit to the Oyster Creek Kitchen was our first as a couple to somewhere seriously nice since lockdown and, moreover, I didn’t have to pay – it was my sister’s 70th birthday gift to me! A long while ago, I promised the mother of the owner I would pay a visit and finally I got round to doing so. One of the attractions for me was the mouth watering sea related dishes, of which many were on offer, although some non fishy people may well be disappointed with the clear lack of too many alternatives.
When it comes to eating out, I see two extremes when it comes to place types: posh and pretentious and cheap and cheerful, with food (quality and quantity), service, ambience and of course value playing important parts when it comes to scoring wherever it is we end up. In the past, I gravitated toward cheap and cheerful, but these days I am more into posh and pretentious but also horses for courses, especially when it comes to special occasions. Interestingly, the restaurant favoured by some of my family members, Tomassis, veers more to p&p, whose owner is the uncle of the one of Oyster Creek.
According to their well present website: “Oyster Creek Kitchen which is set in a recently renovated Victorian shelter with uninterrupted views over the Thames Estuary, provides the perfect place to enjoy a romantic meal or or share some food with friends over a couple of cocktails. Specializing in fresh seafood, we serve an extensive range of fresh fish and shellfish, from fresh lobster, oysters and mussels, to the ever-popular fish and chips. This is complimented with a range of aged steaks, prime burgers and seasonal specials. For dessert why not try one of our generous sundaes, made with our homemade gelato“.
My sister and her husband and me and my wife decided to set out early, mindful Southend sea front would be busy and unsure where to park. And it was (busy I mean – it was a beautiful summer’s day and the seafront was buzzing) but fortunately our table was booked for 6 and some visitors to the seaside were beginning to set off home, meaning we found somewhere to park that was close to the restaurant. We were wowed by how the building had been adapted, which both me and my brother-in-law remember was a shelter back in the day, and was impressed with the checking in procedure and warmth of the welcome (for us, masks featured only from entrance to table – although all too mindful how the pan(scam)demic would have untowardly affected businesses like this).
The restaurant seemed full and we noticed a notice saying as much. We were seated at a table with a fantastic view over the estuary (seeing different things going on became one of our main topics of conversation). It was one of those days we would have liked sitting outside but the nature of the online booking (which I was told was pretty slick and straightforward) meant we had to choose in or outside seating. We were served by a pleasant, attentive waitress, who we could see was being kept busy and invited to order drinks. Mine was the house white wine (which I liked, and there was a selection to choose from), and as for the others, it was cola and tea between them – served quickly enough and perfectly ok.
Then it came to ordering. As the birthday boy, I had first choice and it had to do with the sea (I love fish and seafood). I chose oysters to start with (after all the word was in the title and my mind cast back to oysters being the food of common folk back before my time and these days a rarity) and catch of the day, which happened to be a favourite – skate. My wife passed on the starter and chose steak – rare. My sister went for a shrimp starter, which she shared with her husband and out of intrigue chose mussels as main course. Her husband chose their idea on fish and chips. We were all wowed by the food, which was fantastic, beautifully presented with appropriate sides etc., and there was enough of it (an area I found in the past where p&p often falls down). In fact, I am tempted to do a Craig and give it a rare perfect ten for food but, while my fish was great as was the potatoes and peas that came with it, it was a touch too salty.
As for service, that too was great but there are areas for improvement. My wife, who loved her steak btw, asked for mustard and it didn’t come and it was a matter of attracting the waitress half way through to get it. As for desserts, while full after our mains, we decided to order to complete our Oyster Creek experience. I chose Eton mess, which I loved (although it could have been a bit colder) and the other three chose variations on ice cream (which met all their approvals). My brother-in-law ordered Baileys ice-cream with the Baileys coming with the coffee (and he was duly obliged). If there was a minor disappointment, the dessert menu was somewhat limited, but I stress, it was minor. We all ordered drinks – two lattes and another tea and that was fine and a nice way to end the evening (although we couldn’t resist crossing the road, sitting on a bench and indulge our fascination with looking over the estuary). My sister even managed to get the pleasant young lady sitting at the next table to take a photo of us and I couldn’t help noticing her other half was tucking into, relishing his lobster (an idea methinks for future visit).
So to round it all off, we all enjoyed our visit to the Oyster Creek Kitchen and hope to come again. I already have three separate starter / main fishy combinations in mind – just as well I love sea food. We stayed for two and a half hours (we had been told on booking two hours was the limit – but if they had imposed, and we were glad they didn’t, we would have missed out on dessert). As for the big question – value for money, let’s face it, it wasn’t cheap but we knew that when booking and no doubt we could have enjoyed an evening out at a Wetherspoons or a Toby for half the price. But, as they say, you get what you pay for and in this case it was great food, great service and a pleasant ambience and in that respect Oyster Creek passed the value test with flying colors.
As for scoring, I would give it nine and a half for the food and nine for other categories (there is room for improvement, after all). It was nice to meet Antonia, the owner / manager, who is lovely. She told us a little of the history and we congratulated her for what she had achieved in difficult times, and wished her well for the future.