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Loch Fyne Oysters, Argyll

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For many, oysters are a culinary glass ceiling, a witchetty grub for the chattering classes. Most people will gladly devour platefuls of knotted prawns, drowned in thousand island dressing, eat fish and chips of a weekend, and even manage to dispatch the odd sauteed scallop. But oysters, still alive, glistening, are harder to swallow.
It is understandable. Even the most ardent oyster maven may have first approached the slippery molluscs with some suspicion, slightly squeamish and in puzzlement as to what the fuss is all about. But letís get over this oyster phobia because they bestow upon us all manner of convivial magic proteins and whatnot. Apparently they are an aphrodisiac, so there, thatís another string to their bow.
The oyster has long been recognised as the jewel in Britainís seafood platter. No-one has appreciated their delights more than the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, whose 49 restaurant empire has been built on the magnificent oysters that grow fat on plankton in the pristine waters of Loch Fyne . Their fame has spread through the length and breadth of Britain, far from the bay of Ardkinglas at the head of Loch Fyne where their oysters are grown. Since 1985, Loch Fyne Oyster Bar has been serving up seafood in a converted cow byre at Clachan, Loch Fyne. Part of their success has been in encouraging diners out of the safety net of smoked salmon and fish pie, and it is high time that British kitchens joined in.
One of the easiest introductions to oysters is to cook them. Covered in garlic butter and gruyere, popped under a hot grill for five minutes. oysters are divine. Or stick them in an indulgent steak and ale pie, they work well with beef. Once the reluctant palate has been beguiled by the cooked oyster it is time to shuck, slurp and despatch a live one. No chewing required; just swallow. A squeeze of lemon and a couple of drops of tabasco and youíll be wondering why you havenít tried them years ago. Wash down with Guinness and repeat.

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