Derek West telling the family history.
My family originally came from Norfolk and they brought their fishing boats to Whitstable in 1901.
I’ve been working in this harbour for 65 years. You need pots with good bait to catch whelks. cod and crabmeat are best because the whelks love the smell. It can take four or five hours of fishing to fill a pot. Whelks like hard ground, not sand,.
‘It was hard work in the old days and it used to take me all morning just to prepare the pots. I had to scrape them, clean them up and tar them – a whelk won’t go over anything rough, just like a snail in your garden. If it’s hot, I might not catch anything for months. Whelks don’t move in the heat, they just laze about. But once the water temperature falls, they start coming back.
‘You used to be able to catch whatever you wanted. Now, there are so many restrictions and quotas. the men from the ministry are always coming down to the harbour: “You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.” ‘We cook our whelks and shell them here by hand, and at the weekend we sell them to visitors who buy them by the pint or gallon. the best time to eat them is when they come in off the boat and they’re warm, all you need is a bit of salt and pepper. the little ones are the best as they’re tender. the bigger ones aren’t so good and you can’t sell them.
“Londoners love them”. our whelks used to be transported up to London by rail, but they stopped it because the railway workers didn’t like getting the smell on their uniform.’
We are a import-to-process-to export shellfish company based in the south east of the UK, supplying whelks, oysters, clams, cockles, and lobsters throughout the UK and Europe.
Our oysters are also available in some of the best restaurants in Thailand, Our whelks in Korea, We have been in operation for over 150 years, and established permanently as West Whelks since 1947.
In addition, we operate Whitstable Native Oyster Store, an online retail subsidiary where the public can purchase some of our products.We have been running a retail business outside of our main factory on the West Quay in Whitstable for many years at the weekends and also offer exclusive outside catering for special occasions..
We supply michelin star restaurants and have continued the tradition of having whitstable Native oysters served on some of the top tables in the world.
What People Say
We stumbled across this place by accident and thoroughly enjoyed the freshest oysters we have ever had. We tried the local Whitstable as well as imported rock oysters and they were shuckling them as you order. We also had some cockles and crayfish, all very rustic and unpretentious. It’s family run, and we interesting to hear about all the establishments they supply.
Joanna MDubai - Trip Advisor
“lovely family run business”
Lovely oysters served quickly. Whitebait delicious too, served to order so hot and fresh. Loved the fact the whole family was involved in the business and the grandaughter and grandfather were so friendly.