PJ’s beer garden is a fine place to sample Carlingford oysters on a sunny day. I ordered two on the half shell, two grilled with garlic butter and breadcrumbs and two barbecued.
The half shell oysters were black-lipped and quite delicious, though they will taste much sweeter after a few months of cold weather.
The grilled oysters were just sensational–I am trying to duplicate the flavor at home. The barbecued oysters tasted like they had been painted with Heinz barbecue sauce. I will skip those next time.
PJ’s is located in the center of the medieval village of Carlingford in County Louth. The glacial fjord called Carlingford Lough separates County Louth on the south shore from County Down to the north. The ocean inlet was given its name by the Vikings who occupied the area in the 9th Century. The town of Carlingford is on the south shore and has been a ferry port since the 12th century.
Along with its other claims to fame, PJ’s restaurant displays the clothing and belongings of ‘Sean Og’ a leprechaun reputedly found on Slieve Foy by the late P.J. O’Hare.
The restaurant features a special section on its appetizer menu devoted to Carlingford oysters.
Carlingford oysters were considered the best in Ireland until the were fished out in the late 1800s.
“Carlingford – renowned for its delicious oysters — In vain may the Parisian boast of his Cancale, the Londoner of his Colchester, or even our western shores of their green-finned Burrin, exquisite Pooldoody – who dare compare them to a rare Carlingford? (The Penny Journal, 1832)
“The best oysters in Ireland are the Burren and Poldoody, the Carlingford being now extinct.” (The Oyster Epicure, 1883)
Inspired by their romantic legend of the Carlingford oyster as recounted on a BBC radio broadcast, Peter Louet-Feisser began the revival of Carlingford oysters in 1974. The company buys seedling Gigas oysters from Normandy and raises them in bags set on trellises in the intertidal flats. The oysters are purified, packed and shipped directly to restaurants and customers from the shores of the lough.
The Carlingford Oyster Company is now a three generation family business that’s been carried on by Peter’s son Kian and wife Mary along with Peter’s daughter Charm her partner Gary, and more recently by Peter’s grandchildren.
Inspired by Peter’s success, there are now several oyster companies growing oysters in Carlingford Lough and all of them are entitled to the “Carlingford oyster” designation.
If you see Carlingford oysters on the menu at your local oyster bar, be sure to give them a try.