Drinks guru behind Piccolo Bar to open San Francisco-style oyster bar in Kings Cross

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Drinks guru behind Piccolo Bar to open San Francisco-style oyster bar in Kings Cross

In 2021 David Spanton saved Piccolo Bar, the then 69-year-old Kings Cross institution, with a reboot that transformed it into an aperitivo bar. Spanton has one eye on the history books again, with the drinks guru set to serve up an oyster bar.

“We haven’t had an oyster bar on Bayswater Road in 15 years,” Spanton says, bemoaning the current dearth of once-common oyster bars in Sydney. “Venues that shuck oysters,” he says.

Spanton blames the price of the molluscs for Sydney’s meagre number of dedicated oyster bars.Chris Pearce

In the spirit of the freshly shucked oysters at the long-closed Bayswater Brasserie, Stanton will open The Hook in early May, also on Bayswater Road, in the former home of Izgara restaurant in Kings Cross.

Inspired by the oyster bars of San Francisco and New Orleans, Spanton blames the price of the molluscs for Sydney’s meagre number of dedicated oyster bars. He points to Morrison’s Oyster Bar & Grill on George Street in the CBD as an example of a venue still dedicated to a proper offering.

Morrison’s co-owner Brett Sergeant says Sydneysiders’ appetite for freshly shucked oysters hasn’t waned in recent years. They sell more than 300 dozen a week at the newly revamped Morrison’s and do a brisk oyster trade at sister venue Whalebridge in east Circular Quay. “I think what has changed is everyone seems to have oysters on the menu now,” he says.

Morrison’s Oyster Bar & Grill sells more than 300 dozen oysters a week.
Morrison’s Oyster Bar & Grill sells more than 300 dozen oysters a week.Steven Woodburn

Oysters might have spread across our menus, but Spanton says they lack the freshness and theatre of shucking. “I can’t open a venue without having the concept in my head,” says Spanton, who last year relaunched the Cafe Hernandez site on Kings Cross Road as the sherry- and vermouth-focused Vermuteria.

“The oyster bar will be the hero at The Hook,” he says. There’ll also be a nostalgic reference to piano bars, with a baby grand included in the redesign.

“We’ll be playing Huey Lewis and the News, music from the 1980s that’s annoying [to some of the people who lived through it], but the younger generation are open to,” Spanton says.

If the piano player calls in sick, The Hook’s owner might step in. But it’ll be a short set. “I can only play three songs; one of them is INXS’ Never Tear Us Apart.

Scott BollesScott Bolles writes the weekly Short Black column in Good Food.
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