A little brief and sunny interlude in my Swedish posts (I STILL have two to go, but they are really good recommendations for places you must see if you go to Stockholm, I promise!). I wanted to include a post about our little weekend trip to the most easterly inhabited island of the UK – Mersea. This small estuary island is just a few miles up the road from Colchester in Essex, and only an hour an a half from Cambridge.
I will be the first to tell you that I know very little about this part of the UK (having spent a good chunk of my life in the North and the rest of it in the South), but I do know that like most of England, it’s steeped in history. Colchester was the first Roman capital in Britain, and by all accounts the Romans would visit Mersea as a holiday destination to stuff their faces with oysters. If it was good enough for them….
We had been given the oyster tip off about West Mersea by my brother and sister in law. When it comes to advice on places for really good food, you should always listen to these two. The adventures we have been on together in years gone by have usually revolved around food, laughter, and typically wine, and I really hope that they still happen when we are extremely old and wrinkly wherever we might all be around the globe…
Anyway, back to Mersea – which you get to by driving across the Strood, an ancient causeway that can be cut off by high tides that can typically happen in the Spring. A terrible proposition given that both East and West Mersea are packed full of places for good local food, and boast a few excellent pubs as well (I am going back in the Spring!!)?!
Given part of the tip off was about this place, and the fact that it had the biggest queue, we headed for The Company Shed first. Started by the Haward family some 30 odd years ago primarily to sell local fish and oysters from the family business (Mr Haward is a 7th generation Mersea Oyster Man), this place has a bit of a reputation thanks to recent glowing reviews from food critics, meaning there can be a wait of around 2 hours for a table. There are no reservations – just turn up, put your name on the waiting list, wander off somewhere to buy your own bread, butter and a bottle (3 BYO things to remember!) and head to the beach – like we did!
On the way to the shore, we had a bit of a trial “stuffing the toddler into his back pack” session (look at how much has he grown in a year?!!) to see whether he would still comply with this for a hiking trip we have coming up. Thankfully (until he saw the beach!) he was very comfortable, and over the moon to be perched monkey like high up on his Dad’s back. Once we let him loose, we then spent a very happy 110 minutes shell inspecting, washed up jelly fish poking, and yelling “nooooooo” countless times as the tiny one headed straight to the often muddy and marshy water’s edge…
Hungry from all that fresh sea air, it was time for the ten minute walk back to The Company Shed.
I liked this place. The environment might be quite basic, but the seafood is good and simple as some of the best food often can be.
The plump scallops with bacon were excellent, and the family oysters were good as promised. We also had really good grilled prawns with butter, and fat mussels in the shell with a herb butter crust. The Company Shed was packed with groups of friends who all looked like they were having the best time filling their bellies and enjoying each other’s company. My particular favourite table (apart from my own obviously) was the one next to us – a family from Hong Kong who had been waiting to eat here for over twenty years, and it looked like every thing was totally living up to their expectations…
When you have been deprived of really good oysters (Munich, as much as I love you, you are a bit land locked – having said that, there are two little places in the Viktualienmarkt where you can find them from time to time!) you can maybe understand us stopping off at the West Mersea Oyster Bar for a few more on the way back to the car. It’s not like we ate 50 each or something, probably 8 each altogether, given that we have to share EVERYTHING food wise nowadays (thankfully the toddler looks like he is fast becoming my fussiest child!), but if you are going to have to order plateful after plateful, The West Mersea Oyster Bar is probably your best bet in any event. It supplies countless London restaurants, as well as sending a million oysters across the world…
The West Mersea Oyster Bar is much bigger than its more famous neighbour so you don’t have to wait for hours, it also has a licence and an additional outdoor seating set up which is perfect for when the sun’s out. Most importantly, their native oysters are excellent and (unlike their neighbour), they also serve the most incredible looking fish and chips! Plus it does children’s portions of everything too (not oysters!)…
Later, as we headed back through picture perfect English villages full of pargetted houses so traditional for this area (and with the most amazing ancient names – Little Wigborough, Tolleshunt Knights and Virley Salcott to name but a few!), we all said we would like to go back again and explore a little more of East Mersea next time too. I can actually see this area becoming a bit of a family favourite whilst we are in this part of the UK. Oysters, Fish and Chips, a great beach, and beautiful scenery, what more could you want? Put this place on your list if you’re visiting!
It sounds like you are really settling into your “new” home and taking advantage of the great places nearby. It was just earlier this year we were talking about feeling strange being home again, but wanting to make the most of it. How are you feeling on that front?
You’re lucky to have fresh seafood nearby! That is one problem I have with Colorado–it’s nowhere near the ocean.
We are definitely getting more used to being back in the UK, and still enjoying discovering all those places new to us! I think you would really love Mersea for the seafood, it’s great! Thanks Marina! (:
Zena's Suitcase says
I’m from the UK and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of these islands. They sound like a great place to visit and the seafood looks amazing
Me too, and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of them either! Thanks Zena! :) x
This looks such a lovely place to visit and so laid back and relaxing. Your pictures are just gorgeous!
Thanks so much Katy! (:
Mmm oysters! I have tried them in the States and in France and loved them both times. I even bought the special knife required to open them and, guess what? I’ve never used it :) What a fantastic time you had. Another place to jot down on the bucket list!
Thanks Mari, I know you would love it here then! :) x
Wow the seafood looks so good and what a fab time you guys had.
We really did. Thank you! (:
Sarah Ebner says
I had a friend at university who lived here and I always promised to visit, but never did! She told me how gorgeous it was and it really looks fabulous in your pics too. I will need to get there sometime – it’s not like it’s very far…
Thanks Sarah. You must go one day! :)
Carrie - Flying With A Baby ( Family Travel) says
The West Mersea Oyster Bar looks incredible- just the type of place I would enjoy!
I would really recommend it for a sunny weekend! Thanks Carrie! (:
Ami Rose says
I really like the look of this place. What gorgeous weather you had! I’ve never been to this part of the country before. It sounds like you all had a fabulous time!
Thanks Ami! (:
I love great places to visit in the UK, and this sounds wonderful! Also love that your daughter eats oysters!
She will eat anything apart from baked beans!! :D Thanks Susanna! x
Krista Bjorn says
I know you said the environment was basic, but I really like it. It feels peaceful, laid back, like you could really just ramble and enjoy it. :-)
It’s a really peaceful place… Thanks Krista! (:
Michelle Twin Mum says
It looks like you had a great trip and I can see that seafood is super fresh. Shame my family all dislike shellfish but we’d happily explore the beach. Mich x
Get to the West Mersea Oyster Co for fish and chips instead!! x
five little doves says
I’ve never heard of this place either but it looks beautiful! I’m not a fan of seafood, its one of the only things I won’t eat, but I can imagine that it has never tasted better than being so freshly cooked as it was here!
It’s totally fresh! Thank you! (:
This was absolutely fascinating and I am a huge fan of Oysters, so would be in my element here x
I think you would love it then Rachel! (:
What a beautiful place to visit! I’m not a fan of seafood but I do love the coast!
Me too! Thanks Colette!
I’ve never been to Mersea, but my distant cousins used to go all the time. I didn’t realise the history of the area, how interesting.
Thanks Emma! (:
I’ve never been to this part of the country before. I’m afraid I don’t like shellfish but I love the sound of fish and chips and a gorgeous sea view.
And they did look amazing fish and chips! Thanks Jenny.
Mmmmmmm all looks and sounds delicious! x
You would love it Mum. x
Laura - Dear Bear and Beany says
I’ve never heard of this place before, it looks a beautiful place to visit. Beautiful photos and we are big fans of seafood, do this would be perfect for us!
You must visit Laura. Thank you! (:
Sounds absolutely incredible. I would love to visit Mersea. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Renna! (:
I love Suffolk! where you were is close to where my parents live. an hour and half away ;)
having seafood is especially amazing close to the seaside. because the closeness is so fresh! the food you’ve had look so amazing
Thanks Miranda! :D
What fantastic pictures, it looks so lovely there. I love that your kids happily try foods too, I would really struggle to get mine to do the same! I’ll have to remember this place :) x
My older two will try anything, and love pretty much all foods (apart from baked beans and licorice!), but the baby isn’t looking half as adventurous. Thanks Hannah! (:
Samantha Mayers says
Wow. What a trip. It really sounds like you had a fantastic time. All that seafood has made me hungry. Your pictures are lovely x
So nice to see a little more of our own country while we are here! :) Thank you!
Helen at Casa Costello says
Wonderful photos. The food sounds amazing. What a treat to be sat next to a family who had waited so long to eat there!
Thanks Helen. They said the same food in Hong Kong would cost a fortune! :D
I’ve never heard of this place but if there are oysters, fish and chips and beautiful scenery it sounds like my kind of place
Add it to your list Leona! Thanks! (: