During our 24 hours in Whitstable, we’d pre-booked a spot at the famed Wheelers Oyster Bar. Wheelers is a delightfully tiny restaurant on the high street with a congenial, family feel. I imagine it’s not changed in aeons.
There are only a few tables (make sure to book in advance), you pay cash, and you bring your own booze (there is a great wine shop right over the road, although we’d brought a bottle of Viognier (2016) from Viranel from home), and they provide a chiller for your bottle. The menu is kept tight depending on what fresh, seasonal fish they’ve caught.
We kicked off with six oysters, going for the Japanese inspired with mirin, soy and pickled ginger. Light and sweet and salty, these were a great start to the meal.
I had the cod BLG toastie to start – cod, bacon jam, gruyere rarebit, dijon aioli and lettuce in a toasted sandwich. It was as epic and intense and rich as it sounds, and my highlight of the meal, although maybe more appropriate as a main meal with a pint than as a refined starter. It set me up to fail with my next course, the equally decadent lobster lasagne. I’ve struggled before with seafood bisques and this was no exception – you need to approach this very hungry and go light on other courses.
My date ordered more sensibly than me, starting off with some beautiful and delicate crab cakes with some fruity additions, and taking on the halibut for main course. The fish was perfectly cooked and the accompaniments, from risotto to mini savoury doughnuts, were delicious. Portion size at Wheelers is very generous and this, combined with the quality of the cooking, meant you really feel you get your money’s worth, despite the humble setting.
We were both stuffed but couldn’t leave without trying something from the dessert menu. The pear tarte tatin with blue cheese ice-cream was calling, and while our first attempt went back to the kitchen as it was on the side of burnt rather than caramelised, the staff handled this with no issues, and promptly prepared another for us.
We finished up, and waddled the 20 minutes back to our AirBnb. I thoroughly recommend Wheelers for a special occasion or just a special night out in Whitstable. We spent around £50 per head all in, and with some smart ordering and empty bellies, it’s great value for money and a great dinner.