Oysters on the menu

VISITORS to West Mersea will soon be able to watch oysters graded, purified and packed as they enjoy the shellfish, if plans made public this week get the go-ahead.

VISITORS to West Mersea will soon be able to watch oysters graded, purified and packed as they enjoy the shellfish, if plans made public this week get the go-ahead.

Michael Dawson, a born and bred islander, has applied to build an oyster bar alongside his sheds on Coast Road.

A local councillor yesterday backed the project, which he said would help promote one of the area's greatest and most famous exports – the Colchester Native Oyster.

West Mersea Oysters is a wholesale company that dredges Colchester Natives and exports them all over the world.


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The shellfish are so popular because of the amount of marshland nutrients in the warm, shallow waters near the island which feed the molluscs and give them their distinctive texture and flavour.

Famed even in Roman times, not only are they considered a delicacy in Belgium and France, they are even sought after as far afield as Hong Kong and Singapore.

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Mr Dawson said: "We get people from London who come down wanting to look at what we do, and then they ask where they can eat the oysters.

"So many people look in, but they are not able to eat them. We have come up with the idea of an extension for an oyster bar.

"We have taken it round the back so we are not upsetting anyone, and it will be low profile, not too classy and in keeping with the surrounding buildings. "We want it to look the same as our packing shed and it will not be going on marshland.

"We hope to have viewing windows, so people can eat their oysters and watch the grading, purification and packing – it will educate them about Colchester oysters."

Mr Dawson said the sheds were built in around 1990 on the site of an older purification plant.

Plans by wine merchants Lay and Wheeler to rebuild and extend a 140-year-old oyster shed in Coast Road caused controversy with local residents when they were proposed.

But Colchester Borough Councillor for Mersea John Jowers said he welcomed the new scheme, as it would highlight Mersea's profile as a main shellfish town on the east coast.

"I am very supportive of this plan. Colchester has a lot of things to be proud of and one of them is oysters.

"These guys have grabbed a dying industry by the scruff of the neck and revived it – it has been very hard work.

"Too often we as a borough hide our light under a bushel. We should take a pride in local products – it is exactly what we have been trying to do," he said.

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