Fishmonger throws oyster company a lifeline
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
By Sharon Wilson 13/05/2020
Fishmonger and restaurateur Willie Little is supporting The Caledonia Oyster Company which has seen a massive slump in orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
World-class oysters are on the menu for Blairgowrie residents as they boost the demand for fresh fish and seafood at the recently opened Fish in Blair, Willies second fish shop with the original in Crieff.
Willie Little now operates his Little's restaurant from a converted church at Rattray. At the same time, his former premises at Wellmeadows houses the new fishmongers. Produce is from Willie's best suppliers, including the Caledonian Oyster Co, based in Oban but with a Blairgowrie connection.
The Caledonian Oyster Co.is run by Judith Vajk, who was born and bred in Blairgowrie. Now operating in Oban since 1995, Judith ended up a long, long way from Perthshire when she started the business in the Channel Islands in 1985. She said: "We really appreciate Willie's custom at this difficult time, supplying him connects me to my birthplace. I will always think fondly of Blair and its beautiful produce."
Judith features in a book about the oyster farms of Britain called "Oyster Isles" and says: "We pride ourselves on the quality of our farmed oysters which are a labour of love for us. It takes 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 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," added Judith. "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."
Willie said: "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 doing more home cooking and experimenting. They are wanting to try new tastes. Blairgowrie is nowhere near the sea, but with the new fishmongers and Littles Restaurant, we are definitely making sure locals have access to the best fish and seafood!"