Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

Champagne and oysters

This is one very simple, very regal food that pairs really well with France's best

There is one very simple, a very regal food that goes best with champagne is oysters. This match is found all across the Champagne region, where the shellfish is served neat and chilled. Oysters are not to everyone’s liking though (Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift once said, and as far back as in the 1600s: “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster"), and it has taken me a while to be comfortable with their flavour and, moreover, their texture.

Earlier this year, I found myself on a trip to Scotland to discover more about Haig Club, the recently released single-grain scotch by Diageo, in partnership with David Beckham and his manager Simon Fuller. The evening consisted of a dinner at the glamorous Gleneagles golf resort where the Ryder Cup 2014 was held. For a pre-starter, the group was served oysters and, having previously tried a taster selection at a restaurant on the South Coast of England run by Mark Hix (whose cocktail bar Mark’s Bar in Soho you must visit next time you hit London), I was ready for this most wonderful of experiences.

Served with a cold and crisp glass of champagne, oysters—that too neat—delivered to your table on just a bed of crushed ice are a total treat. But they can also be topped with something as simple as a dash of Tabasco or chopped onions in red-wine vinegar. They can even be baked. Hix also deep-fries his oysters in a tempura batter. Utterly, utterly delicious.

To bake an oyster, known as the Rockefeller style, you simply shuck the oysters (be careful here, this is a very difficult job) and find a cool place for them to rest. Fry up some onion in butter. Add some spinach at the very last moment to just wilt it down, and also some breadcrumbs. Once the mixture is ready, top the oysters with the breadcrumb mix, a small amount of butter and grill until brown.

I do love my oysters baked, and also in batter. But my preference is simply to have them neat, chilled and topped with a dash of hot sauce.

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