Poached Oyster with Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and Chives


Rowley Leigh wanted Kensington Place to be an English version of the French brasserie, and took the chance to open a fish shop at the side of the restaurant, rather as the French display rows of briny oysters. The Kensington Place Fish Shop treats fish with respect. Just one or a few specimens of each species are displayed on the ice, where you can gaze at a perfect turbot or some silver-bright herrings. Some fillets are kept carefully in chilled drawers below the slab and the rest of the fish are kept whole in a walk-in refrigerator. Chefs work here both preparing the fish and cooking dishes, such as fish soup and seared tuna with ginger and soy sauce. The manager, Cohn Westal, gets up at 2.30a.m. in order to get to Billingsate early to snap up the pick of the catch.

Serves 4 as a starter

  • 20 rock oysters

  • 150g sliced smoked salmon

  • 1 cucumber

  • 100g unsalted butter

  • 50ml double cream

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 handful of chopped fresh chives

  1. Open the oysters, reserving the liquor and removing the meat. Rinse the rounded halves of the shells and put them on a large serving dish in a warm oven.

  2. Cut the smoked salmon into very thin strips. Cut the cucumber flesh into matchsticks.

  3. Melt a small knob of the butter in a frying pan and quickly toss the cucumber in it. Remove from the heat and put the smoked salmon in the pan, tossing the two together very briefly to mix but without cooking the salmon. Put a small bundle of the mixture in each shell.

  4. Put the oyster liquor in a wide, shallow saucepan. Bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, put the oysters in and simmer for less than a minute. Remove the oysters and put one in each of the rounded half-shells. Bring the liquid back to the boil and reduce down to about 2 tbsp. Add the cream and reduce until the sauce starts to thicken.

  5. Cut the rest of the butter into cubes (it has to be quite cold: if the butter melts too fast the sauce could separate), and whisk into the sauce. Add plenty of black pepper to the emulsified sauce and spoon over each oyster. Sprinkle over lots of chopped chives and serve as a luxurious starter.


  1. Use a sturdy oyster knife, preferably one with a guard. Fold a kitchen cloth into a thick square and place in the left hand. Secure the oyster in the cloth with the flat side of the shell uppermost and the hinged, thicker end towards you.

  2. Push the oyster knife at a 45-degree angle in at the hinge: the knife will penetrate easily if you are in the right place. Rotate the knife a quarter turn back and forth, increasing pressure as you do so, until, with a little plop, the pressure is released and the oyster opens.

  3. Slide the knife along the top of the oyster and remove the top shell. If cooking the oyster, slip the knife under it and cut the muscle. Collect them in a small bowl in their juice. Covered in cling film and well refrigerated, they will keep for a day or two in this condition.

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