The first time I saw gulls’ eggs on a menu was during my my first job in London at the Ninety Park Lane restaurant in Grosvenor House.
I was still a bit of a green lad from Dorset and I remember saying “I thought I’d escaped these flying terrorists when I left the seaside”. We were plagued by them back there; they’d nick your sandwiches when you weren’t looking. The eggs were a hell of a price, too. I didn’t get why until I spoke to my local fishing friends when I went back to West Bay. I discovered these luxurious eggs were from the migratory black headed gull, which lays its eggs near estuaries. The short six or so week season is heavily policed and only a handful of people in the country are allowed to collect these gulls eggs.
Collecting them actually encourages the gulls to lay more, so the collectors always leave one in the nest, so it’s a very sustainable – if incredibly niche – business.
Gulls eggs were traditionally found on gentleman’s club menus but you see them at a few restaurants who can stomach the high cost of the eggs.
Gulls eggs have a much richer, more orange yolk than hen’s eggs, and a gelatinous-looking white once boiled. They are best served really simply, with mayonnaise and celery salt. We always take it up a notch and make our own celery salt by slowly drying celery leaves and coarsely blending with sea salt so it has a vibrant green colour as apposed to the brown shop bought stuff. You can use it with boiled hens or bantam eggs, too, and it’s great in a Bloody Mary.
Home-Made celery salt
What you need:
• Leaves from large head of leafy celery
• 200g flaky rock salt like Cornish sea salt
What to do:
• Set your oven to its lowest temperature. With some modern ovens you can get away with using just the fan; the warming oven of an Aga is also ideal. Scatter the celery on one or two baking trays and leave in the oven overnight until the pieces are dry and crisp, but don’t let them go brown. Depending on how watery the celery is you may have to allow even longer. Once dry enough, put them into a food processor with the sea salt flakes and blend to a coarse powder-like consistency and store in a jar in the fridge.