There are people who love oysters, people who hate oysters, and people who are somewhere in the middle. Until I visited The Walrus, I’d say I was one of those in-betweeners; I’d eat them if they were put in front of me, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to order them. The Walrus, a brand new oyster bar on Staunton Street, however, has most definitely converted me.
The Walrus is brought to us by the very entrepreneurial Chow sisters behind popular bar The Woods. Between the three sisters they possess a whole host of skills, including investment banking (Juliette), interior design and architecture (Regina), photography, event planning and brand marketing (Victoria), as well as a clear knowledge of quality food and drinks.
The Walrus is a tiny spot, and yet the thought behind every little detail is clearly evident. The design is inspired by the adventures of the open sea, so there’s a strong nautical theme throughout the space, including portholes, rustic wooden flooring, ropes, a lot of stainless steel and mini lighthouses. The name of the bar is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and The Carpenter in Alice in Wonderland, which tells of a cheeky walrus who lures dozens of oysters out of the sea so he can eat them! The poem is in fact played on a loop in the seashell-mosaic-lined washroom.
We began our evening with a selection of oyster shooters, each a variation on a tradtional Bloody Mary shooter. The one I tried contained sake, shiso, uni, caviar and a raw quail egg, as well as an oyster of course, which made it a little difficult to drink, yet refreshingly worthwhile. If you’re feeling generous, there’s a big nautical bell you can ring…so long as you’re prepared to buy shooters for the whole bar!
If oyster shooters aren’t your thing, you can choose from a selection of in-house bottled cocktails from The Woods, which are carefully designed to pair with the flavours of the seafood. Since the space isn’t really large enough to have a fully-functioning bar, this not only makes life easier for everyone, but it also removes the whole pretentiousness associated with mixology, yet without sacrificing on quality.
The list of “naked” oysters includes a market-fresh selection from around the world. Staff are trained to guide guests in the right direction when it comes to ordering, based on their flavour preference. I used to think that oysters all had the same flavour, but now realise that this is totally wrong – some can be creamy, others salty, others sweet, etc. You can enjoy these freshly-shucked oysters as they are, or top them with one of the six house condiments including a Thai-inspired mignonette, mint and basil granita or passionfruit granita.
The Walrus also offers a selection of hot and cold oysters, each with a unique dressing. The Oompa Loompa came in the form of an oyster and salmon tartare, topped with tangy homemade blood orange sorbet, which was light and refreshing.
For the uninitiated oyster eaters, the best way to get into eating oysters is by starting with cooked ones, since they have more of a silky, creamy texture. The Miso Hot came topped with miso sauce, sesame and fried kale, whilst my favourite was the Hail Caesar, which was a deliciously creamy and garlicky blend with a nice fresh crunch.
If you can’t even handle cooked oysters, try the Copy Cat, which contains no oysters whatsoever. An oyster leaf presents the same oyster flavour, whilst avocado and dragon fruit offer a similar texture.
The Walrus Po’Boy was a fun variation of this Southern American classic, filled with deep-fried oysters and garoupa, house pickles and house aioli in a soft, buttery brioche.
I was a big fan of the mini crabs with nori chips. These cute little crabs are imported live from Japan and cooked whole with a touch of house Old Bay seasoning. I loved the simplicity of it as well as the satisfying crunch.
The Walrus has even thought of how to serve “oysters” for dessert! The Sweet Deception is a beautiful arrangement made with a realistic white chocolate “oyster shell” with house-made sea salt caramel ice cream and chocolate biscuit crumble. Although it was a little too sweet for most of us, we loved the creativity.
The Walrus is currently still in soft opening mode and will launch fully in August. It will also offer catering and takeaway pacakges, as well as oyster shucking classes and tastings.
Oysters don’t come cheap, yet I think prices at The Walrus are pretty affordable, with all oysters between $30 and $55 a piece. It’s a really fun reinterpretation of a classic oyster bar where you’re guaranteed to have a shucking good time!
64 Staunton Street
Closed on Sundays. No reservations.