When I meet my brother in town we always have lunch at our favourite fish restaurant, La Poissonnerie on Sloane Avenue. We like to start with a few oysters each and last month we ordered the Whitstable No 1’s, which was a big mistake as they turned out to be far too large. Each one was about the size of the palm of my hand. I always swallow oysters whole and, very stupidly, tried to swallow one of these monsters. There was no way it could get down my throat and it got stuck in my gullet. It was a wretched and humiliating experience trying to regurgitate it, and to give some idea of how evil this oyster was, when I blew my nose a few minutes later a piece of the oyster came out through my nose.
One thing is certain, which is that I won’t be trying Whitstable No 1’s again in a hurry, but I couldn’t miss the chance to go to Japan’s equivalent of Whitstable, Itoshima, which is about an hour to the west of Fukuoka on Kyushu Island. There are no fancy restaurants at Itoshima – there are just a few polytunnels set up on the quayside, from which the fishermen sell their oysters by the kilo. A kilo gives you 20 oysters, which cost £10, which is one sixth of the price at La Poissonnerie. The system is that each table has a barbecue in the centre on which you cook the oysters for about five minutes, after which time most of them will have opened, and for those that haven’t you are given a shucking knife and a glove. They were just fabulous and I polished off 20, each of them slipping down with no trouble at all.