Pinning paper bags full of salty Whitby winkles with a needle at my nan's house. Sharing a jar of pickled muscles with my Dad. Seafood has always been a treat for me. Vinegar is the key and I like lots of it.
At Bibendum, they got this spot on. Open shells were displayed on big bowls of crushed ice with dainty bowls of sweet onion vinaigrette, hot crusty bread and proper butter. I rarely trough out on expensive food but a glass of plonk and a platter of fresh oysters cost fifteen quid, which was worth it just for the opportunity to sit and admire such beautiful and zany architecture.
Bibendum is the name of the famous fat Michelin Man. His presence is an unlikely one in an Art Nouveau building and it is strange to associate the grit and grip of tyres with the exquisiteness of 'fine dining', champagne and linen napkins. By night the glass windows are softly lit and huge Michelin men lamps on the roof glow like two beacons. It is one of the most eccentric buildings in London, if not the UK.
Originally owned by Michelin in the early twentieth-century, the building was its head quarters. In new ownership since the eighties, the building was bought by a publishing duo who switched purpose from tyre jacks and burnt rubber to haute cuisine and waited tables. Thankfully the pair kept the building in its original form. The restaurant is yet to receive a star of the same name for its food but Michelin tracks are emblazoned throughout the Bibendum: from bar menus, sprawling floor tiles, grand stained glass windows, each and every surface bears a reference to this distinctive branding. Even the serving plates.
For me, eating oysters is a homely experience and the fizzy stuff isn't really me. A good pint of Guinness would have been perfect, though perhaps that is because I wolfed down my first oysters in a lively Porterhouse in Dublin. The oysters here were tip top, though. So if you are in London, go eat in this brilliant building. Even if you just buy some sweet yellow roses for your mam from the devilishly pretty florist outside.