The Great British oyster is deeply embedded in our geographical, historical and socio-cultural landscape. Five-thousand-year-old oyster shells have been discovered in the northern reaches of Scotland, and oyster shells are littered along the extinct riverbeds deep beneath the London of today. A highly prized delicacy of the Romans, the oyster has always been a class leveller: an everyman food of the poor during the Victorian age to a food of decadence during the twentieth century. It is a superfood; a biological water meter; an ecological superpower. The oyster card, 'the world is your oyster' – it has even crept into our language.
Bobby Groves, Head of Oysters at the Chiltern Firehouse, takes us on a wonderful journey of the British oyster, a five-thousand-mile motorcycle odyssey of Britain's spectacular coastlines. He vividly brings to life this strange and marvellous creature, shining a light on its rich and vibrant history, its cultural impact and ecological importance as well as those oyster folk who work so hard to protect them.
Part travelogue, part social history, Oyster Isles is a celebration of the much-loved yet much-misunderstood British oyster.
Bobby Groves is the Head of Oysters at London restaurant Chiltern Firehouse. Born in Maldon, Essex, Bobby began working at his local oyster farm, Maldon Oysters, in 2006, cultivating, delivering and exporting shellfish. He has also worked as an oyster shucker for various London food markets, shucking thousands of oysters per day.
As part of his research for Oyster Isles, Bobby undertook a 5,000-mile journey around the coastlines of the British Isles and Ireland on a Triumph motorcycle. Bobby lives in London, supports Newcastle United and also plays the banjo in folk band Beans on Toast.
"A clever mix of food history, nature writing, travelogue and restaurant guide"
– Sophie Morris, The i
"Part travelogue, part social history"
– Tome Morrissy-Swan, Sunday Telegraph
"A masterpiece. It is so interesting to read about oyster lore on the other side of the world. Being here in America, I tend to forget how many oysters are out there in other places, especially in the UK and Ireland. Thank you, Bobby, for bringing this world of joy to me and all the rest of America."
– Sandy Ingber, Executive Chef of the Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York
"An amazing tome. It's a joy. The stories behind each oyster and location are informative, in depth, but, most importantly, fun. I shall never eat an oyster again in the same way, the knowledge impaired from this book will definitely enhance the eating."
– Michel Roux Jr, Le Gavroche
"Bobby's oyster travelogue is an ambitious, one-of-a-kind piece that shines a spotlight on the extraordinary and the everyday of the industry. It's the stuff that oyster bucket lists are made of."
– Julie Qiu, In A Half Shell blog
"This book is a rolling adventure of bike, sweat, salt, sea and oysters. A book full of history and love; love for the oyster and love for the coasts of the British Isles and Ireland"
– Margot Henderson, Rochelle Canteen
"Bobby's storytelling puts you in his wellies, and makes me want to hop on a Triumph to explore the tastes, characters, and sights of the Oyster Isles [...] An instant oyster classic"
– Patrick McMurray, World Oyster Shuckin' Champion
"To my mind, the best food book to be published this year. Bobby Groves's fascinating and beautifully written history of the oyster in the British Isles is meticulously researched. A captivating and utterly absorbing account of a young man's odyssey. A must-have, if you possess even the remotest interest in seafood and presented in a glorious old-school style. Divine."
– East Coast Avocet
"A super book about a super food! Bobby Groves gives the oyster lover an insight into the social history of the coastline of our wonderful country"
– Brian Turner