Design: Oysters - an open and shut case

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The Independent Culture
"BIG CHAP with a small moustache and the sort of eye that can open an oyster at 60 paces." Unless you happen to possess the penetrating glare of Bertie Wooster's sworn foe Roderick Spode, you'll have to use a knife to tackle the placid bivalve. As with every other kitchen utensil, designers have leaped at the chance to develop ever more stylish variations to entice the oyster-fancier.

Divertimenti want you to start shucking with a gorgeously scaled implement (top, right, pounds 19.95), which looks like it too might recently have emerged from the briney. Selfridge's sell a fancy version of the traditional squat- bladed French oyster knife (pounds 6.75), while the Conran Shop offer an elegant stiletto to slip into the heart of the shellfish (pounds 8.95).

If you don't fancy wielding the cold steel on the harmless beast, there are a few alternatives. From the Brittany oyster centre of Cancale comes Le Cancalien, a complicated gadget consisting of an oyster-shaped holder, a clamp to hold the shellfish firm, plus a blade on a swivel which slices between the two shells. ("C'est un jeu d'enfant," it claims.) For the wrong side of a hundred quid, you can even get an electronic guillotine which promises to bisect the bivalve in an instant.

There is one simple reason why all of the above are superfluous. The irksome business of cleaving oysters - splintered shells, bloody fingers and all - has been licked once and for all by a simple French device known as Le Clic Huitre (below, left). It consists of a basic, long-bladed knife and a plastic oyster-holder which resembles a soapdish. Put the oyster in the holder and hold down, insert the knife at the hinge end of the shellfish and Robert est votre oncle.

Le Clic Huitre is available from Seasalter Shellfish, Whitstable, Kent (01227 272003) for pounds 5.50, 55p p&p

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