We sent Sean Murphy along to Glasgow's oldest seafood restaurant, the Rogano, to find out how they are celebrating National Oyster Day.

Walking into The Rogano is a little like being transported to the past; the speakeasy stylings of the bar easily vibe with the Art Deco architecture and furniture, taking you back to a time when things were just that little bit more glamorous.

Opened in 1935, the Rogano is the oldest surviving restaurant in Glasgow, and it is a testament to its quality that it has remained at the forefront of the city’s dining scene for more than 80 years.

This year, the restaurant, which is famous for its seafood, has created two new recipes for its oysters for National Oyster Day (5th of August) which will be available from today until Sunday, as well as a cocktail to complement them which will be available on a more permanent basis.

I was invited along to try out these new oyster recipes and the accompanying cocktail as well as finding out a little bit more about the inspiration behind them.

The Tasting

Even at 11am on a random Thursday morning, the restaurant is busy, as I enter, some of the team are outside putting together the outdoor seating that many a patron has enjoyed over the years.

Inside, a couple of ladies enjoy a tea and a chat, while at the bar, Chris Burns, the team’s mixologist, chats with a member of the Douglas Laing team while creating the cocktail that will be the focus of this morning’s tasting.

It’s here that I’m introduced to Natasha Michie, sales manager and Gordon Provan, the restaurant’s head chef and creator of the  oyster specials that will soon be laid out before me.

Before the sampling, I get the chance to talk a little more to Gordon about how he came up with the recipes the Rogano will be using for the two specials, he explained: “I chose a Scottish theme, using Scottish ingredients, which we prefer to use as much as we can. For instance, a lot of the oysters that we use are sourced from Cumbrae and the west coast.”

So, what’s the story behind the recipes chosen for the National Oyster Day specials?

“With oysters, they are very delicate so you don’t want the recipe to be too complex as it will destroy the flavour and you won’t taste them at all, so I’ve tried to keep a nice balance.

“The first oyster recipe uses some Speyside whisky, nice and mild, with lots of honey and thyme and offers a more savoury character.

“While the second is a twist on cranachan, using oatmeal and raspberries, shallots and, when combined with Chris’ whisky sour, really hits that cranachan flavour. It’s quite interesting really crunchy and sweet.”

While Gordon then went off to prepare the oysters to sample, Chris explained how he created the cocktail that will be offered as an accompaniment to the oyster recipes.

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The Rock Oyster whisky used in the cocktail was created especially for the Rogano. Picture: TSPL

“With Chef creating the two specific oyster recipes to mark National Oyster Day, I was asked to create a cocktail that would complement them and any of the oysters we sell.

“To make it I used the Rogano Rock Oyster whisky, a small batch blended malt whisky made by Douglas Laing specifically for us.

“It uses whisky from islands such as Islay, Orkney and Jura and its got a very maritime flavour, which ties in perfectly with the oysters.

“The cocktail has the base of a whisky sour, and to that I’ve added a measure of Kümmel, a really old school liqueur, which is quite herbal and made with caraway seeds and cumin.

“To that I added some more lemon juice, which goes well with oysters, and some fresh tarragon which adds a little vanilla, which will pair nicely with the second oyster recipe, and some aniseed which gives it a nice depth that also won’t overpower the oysters.

“The Kümmel is also quite viscous which will coat the mouth and help to capture more of the flavour of the oyster, as I really wanted the drink to maintain the taste of the oysters, as chef has really gone out of his way to create the best recipes for the oysters.”

The specials themselves couldn’t look more different, the first – whisky, lemon & thyme infused oyster with shallot and lemon dressing – is the more traditional looking and described by Gordon as being the more savoury of the two.

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The oatmeal coated oysters sitting side by side with the whisky-infused oysters. Picture: TSPL

Gordon explains that to make them he mixed a shot of whisky with lemon and thyme for the marinade, before shucking the oyster and keeping the juices.

Then he poured a dash of the marinade on each oyster for 2-3 minutes before adding the shallot and lemon dressing and serving on ice.

Thankfully, after all that effort, they turned out to be delicious, sweet to begin with before finishing with a burst of that savoury briny flavour from the oysters.

The after taste, which was enhanced by the flavours of the cocktail, left me wanting more.

After I’d enjoyed another of the whisky infused oysters, Gordon went on to say that the second set of oysters would be quite different.

These oysters had been given a pinhead oatmeal coating before being fried for a minute or two until they were golden brown.

Served with a raspberry vinaigrette, Gordon describes them as more of a ‘dessert’ dish, though to be honest they would be perfect as a starter too.

Warm and crunchy, the sweet raspberry really contrasted the dry crunch of the oatmeal and the briny flavour of the oysters.

Another hit with me, the oatmeal oysters were also enjoyed by a few others in attendance who weren’t huge fans of oysters and we all agreed they’d be perfect for beginners.

This time the cocktail worked even better, as the sour’s herbal flavours balanced out the sweet notes of the dish and once again brought out the brine of the oyster.

Though they have done little bits over the years, this is the first time The Rogano have officially celebrated National Oyster Day, but I’m convinced with the team creating such excellent specials, it won’t be the last.

I’ll certainly be back to see what they come up with next.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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