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Article appeared in issue 4, 2020

London calling

Irish oysters on the menu

Mayo company, Achill Oysters has announced a distribution partnership with Marrfish to supply its premium oysters to retail and foodservice customers in London through a next-day delivery service. The company has grown significantly since it was founded seven years ago and it exports Irish rock oysters to Singapore, Hong Kong and Iceland from its processing and distribution facility in Ennis in county Clare.

Owned and run by oyster farmer Hugh O’Malley, Achill Oysters cultivates its oysters using centuries-old methods in the Class A waters off Achill Island. They are grown in mesh bags on trestles and the oysters' deep cup is derived from the constant movement of the ocean. Each bag is shaken and turned to allow the oysters to grow evenly and boost the meat content. The oysters are free of artificial foods or additives and are purified in salt water before delivery.

“Our oysters take three and a half years to reach market size,” explains Hugh. “Like a fine wine, their taste is defined by how well they are tended to and the quality of their environment. We couldn’t have a better location than Achill Island. We are proud to be part of this community, employing local people on our farm. We are also very grateful to our Irish customers and fishmongers who have continued to support us. In fact, our online sales increased twentyfold during the lockdown. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is to continue to appreciate what we have in this country, including fantastic seafood right on our doorstep.”

Five generations of the O'Malley family have made a living from the seas off Achill and that appreciation for the ocean's offering is underpinned by the company's sustainability initiatives which include using trestles and bags to grow oysters, grading the oyster by hand, using small tractors, employing traditional road-building techniques, tending to the shoreline and using recyclable packaging. The company is a member of Origin Green, the national sustainability programme, and in 2016, it won the Euro-Toques Food Award for excellence in aquaculture, followed by a Gold Star at the Great Taste Awards in 2017.