Since 1875, “conchyliculteurs” practise shellfish farming at the Étang de Thau, situated between Sète and Marseillan. With great success, as nearly half of France’s oyster production comes from this lagoon! The charming village of Bouzigues, regarded as the capital of shellfish, is even the eponymous village for these oysters. So I was delighted to be invited by Le Cercle des Huîtres to taste their special oysters.
Le Cercle des Huîtres is like an oyster farmhouse, situated right on the waterfront of the Étang de Thau lagoon. Jean-Marc Deslous-Paoli and his team cultivate two types of oysters: the “Speciales” deep-cupped oysters and the flat ones. Besides buying them directly from Le Cercle des Huitres, you can also do a tasting. I love finds like this! With a magnificent view over the Étang de Thau, this place has a natural shabby chic vibe, without even trying. We started our “dégustation” with a typical dish from the South of France: la pissaladière, a kind of pizza, topped with caramelized onions and anchovies. Of course, accompanied by a great local white wine.
In the meantime, the experienced shucker easily opened our oysters. And the platter looked very impressive, especially with the shimmering Étang de Thau in the background! I found out that all of this time I had been eating oysters the wrong way… We were given a little oyster knife, which served to scrape all the oyster parts out of its shell. Including the little adductor muscle that I usually tend to leave at the bottom of the shell. I thought this part was inedible, but apparently it’s the best part! We also got to taste the flat oysters, which were a lot smaller than the special ones. I had a preference for the deep-cupped oysters, which had a mild flavour of the sea.
While my fellow slurpers and I continued our feast, the traditional “Brasucade de Moules” started to cook on a big wood fire. This very local way of preparing mussels involves a secret sauce, added straight after the mussels have opened. Apparently, every conchyliculteur has their own recipe for this finishing touch, and therefore every brasucade tastes different. The one by Le Cercle was divine! And had nothing to do with the magical sunset over the Étang de Thau by the way…