Although located at the Clarion Hotel (and with direct access from it) Oysters is operated independently and has a separate entrance.
It’s quite big but well divided and very comfortable, with generously-spaced linen clad tables - and an aquarium catches your eye on the way in, making a nice feature. And it’s very well lit, with muted ceiling lights and drop down lighting in some areas, especially over the larger tables, so the overall impression is very pleasing.
The good first impressions continue with a friendly reception - and staff are really helpful throughout, taking care to explain changes to the menu and answer any questions you may have. The choices on the à la carte are quite extensive, so the early dinner menu - which offers excellent value at €35 - is a good choice if this is your first visit and the timing suits.
And the menus - which are, of course, very fish-focused - offer plenty of equally intriguing dishes to choose from, as Head Chef Alex Petit and his team clearly relish the challenge of making the very best of the fresh and tasty seafood caught only a few hours earlier off the Cork coast. The cooking is stylish, with a classical base modernised by contemporary combinations within each dish and impressive presentation.
The menu style is (in the current fashion) slightly inscrutable but it’s fun to see if your chosen dishes look anything like you imagined.
Starters will probably include oysters of course (rock oysters from Oysterhaven, where else, offered several ways) but other equally tempting ideas might include lemon sole and prawn salad, scallops (with butternut squash, coral terrine, seaweed, beurre blanc); and the Oysters seafood chowder, a sophisticated dish based on a light bisque and definitely not the chowder familiar from days out along the coast. Another unusual starter is the swordfish (ceviche, mango, avocado, fennel, lime confit, pistachio, frisee lettuce, citrus oil) which is definitely one to try.
If you prefer a non-seafood starter, look out for an interesting duck dish (croquette, parfait, beetroot, pear, candied walnuts, truffled dressing, and brioche), and there will be vegetarian options, such as a beautifully presented celeriac & parsnip velouté, or a butternut squash and sage risotto (also with those gorgeous candied walnuts).
Great fish main course choices include updated classics like Dover sole on the bone, monkfish cassolette (a hearty, richly flavoured dish with coco bean, morteau sausage, savoy cabbage, shallots and carrots); halibut en papillotte, and sea bass (whole and char-grilled).
For anyone who’s not in the mood for seafood, vegetarian dishes are exceptionally imaginative and some popular meats include a predictably upbeat variation on fillet of beef, and also pork (both fillet and belly, with baby turnips, butternut squash, savoy cabbage, fig and Madeira jus).
The cheese and dessert list is short but tempting and, in retro mood, it’s good to see traditional "Crèpes Suzette" on the menu; flambéed at your table, it will end a special meal in high old style - and on some evenings, there is piano music too.
A coffee menu is offered and an option which will please a lot of diners is to have coffee with a selection of mini desserts - petits fours effectively, but worded to suggest an alternative to dessert which is often exactly what’s required.
And, to accompany, quite a wine list is offered, leaning towards Old World whites, with prices start in the low twenties Some (including dessert wines) are available by the glass and digestifs are also offered.
Prices generally are fair for the standard offered, and it’s easy to see why this pleasing place has become one of Cork city’s most popular restaurants.