IT MAY be nowhere near the sea, but residents in Blairgowrie have developed a taste for oysters thanks to their new fishmonger.
Restaurateur Willie Little, who runs Little’s Restaurant in a converted church over the bridge in Rattray, opened Fish in Blair in premises that were previously home to the Wellmeadow restaurant.
Little, who also runs Fish in Crieff, is supporting fish and seafood suppliers that have been hit by the closure of restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic – including one with very strong connections to Blair.
Judith Vajk, who founded The Caledonian Oyster Co in 1985, was born and bred in Blairgowrie, and her father still lives in Dunkeld.
Vajk moved her business from the Channel Islands to Oban in 1995.
She said: “We pride ourselves on the quality of our farmed oysters, which are a labour of love for us, taking up to five years to grow an oyster to the size that Willie and other customers would use in their restaurants, or sell to customers.
“We really appreciate Willie’s custom at this difficult time, and wish him all the very best with his latest fishmongers, which we are sure will be as successful as Fish in Crieff.
“Supplying him is a real connection to my place of birth, and I will always think fondly of Blair, and its beautiful produce.
“We have seen a huge drop in orders over the past few months, with many restaurants closed.
“Normally we would be taking oysters over to Edinburgh, and down to Glasgow, at least twice a week to be sold at various outlets.
“We’re still making small local deliveries in and around Oban, and supplying Willie and a few other places that are open, doing deliveries or pick up.
“It’s a massive worry though, with this industry being so labour intensive.
“We have two full-time members of staff, and two part time, to support.”
Vajk features in Oyster Isles, a new book about her industry by Bobby Groves.
Little added: “Judith and her team do a fantastic job, and we can but hope that they, and many other small artisan producers like them, get through this crisis.
“Our new shop is doing well, with the oysters proving particularly popular.
“I think it’s because people are at home doing more cooking, and experimenting – they are wanting to try new tastes.
“Blairgowrie is nowhere near the sea but, with the new fishmonger’s shop and Little’s Restaurant, we are definitely making sure locals have access to the best fish and seafood.”