I wouldn’t normally write about a brand-new restaurant but when something grabs me, it deserves its place. Some think I’m a fussy eater because I like simple food that is what it is and that isn’t buried under some fancy sauce. Shucked – An Oyster Bar grabbed my attention for its main ingredient – I start as an oyster lover. So, do they crack it?
Let me begin at the beginning. It was a Thursday night and I was a little glum so my husband said, “Let’s go out for a bite, you choose the restaurant” – the last comment was said with some knowledge of my endless search for a menu that inspires.
Of course, the Internet has changed the way we make choices and a heading about new restaurants was my kick-off point. Shucked attracted me for obvious reasons but I couldn’t find a menu. A phone call received friendly, instant results and an email told the story. I was immediately captured by an inventive menu that contains no reference to pulled anything (for some reason the notion of pulled food is a big no-no for me). There are no chic pizzas (an oxymoron in my book), no promises of food concocted from fresh ingredients (shouldn’t all food be made afresh?). Shucked’s menu is an unpretentious, eclectic list of attractive options. Apart from the oysters, I liked the sound of Brothy Beans, French Onion Soup, and Fish and Chips (Kingklip for a change, not hake) and mushy peas.
But let’s take a step back again… to our arrival. Our table with a view of Jan Smuts Avenue awaited us (nothing wrong with that) and we were also positioned to view the activities within, where a happy vibe prevailed and the serving staff was helpful and welcoming as were the complimentary daiquiris. We passed on the impressive cocktails menu – from a Bloody Mary to a Pina Colada and much in between – and went straight to Sauvignon Blanc by the glass, while we took our time reading the menu.
We’d learnt in advance that the oysters were from Saldanha Bay. With pencil in hand, I wondered which of 14 oyster treatments to select (between R22 and R30 each) when the decision was made a whole lot easier by the helpful but unobtrusive Lena. “May I?” she asked. It was a rhetorical question and I agreed to all her suggestions. Choosing six for R150 was a challenge and I ended up with ingredients that included sesame oil and seeds, spring onion and lime, ponzu, Maldon salt and lemon, lumpfish roe, soy sauce and wasabi, and my favourite, mignonette (shallots and vinegar). I salivate in recollection, ready for another fix.
All courses are described as mains but the sizes are extremely variable. Richard’s starter was the Brothy Beans – slow-cooked butter beans, tomato and mint for R65, with an unannounced lingering taste of lemon – which was delicious.
Our next courses were hard to arrive at and I uncharacteristically opted for a dish unsurprisingly named Sunday Roast (R115). Rare roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, glazed carrot and roast potato didn’t do it for me but I am sure it would meet someone else’s expectations. Richard chose Seasonal Pie (braised chicken thighs, ham and leek R85) and while his taste buds were satisfied, his hunger pangs were not, given the size of it – at best, 6cm in diameter. When we left, he commented that the experience reminded him of the erstwhile Sam’s Café in Melville. I didn’t need to ask what he meant but he chanted his oft-repeated refrain: “Sam’s portions were so small, I needed to go out for dinner afterwards.”
But I digress. One of three not terribly imaginative side dishes is included with the mains – a forgettable rainbow carrot salad, green beans or fries.
Careful not to interrupt our digestion, amiable owner Marcel Cronje introduced himself after dinner and invited our comments. I mentioned the teeny weeny pie and he laughed saying he couldn’t agree more, so with a little luck it will soon increase in size and quell one’s hunger pains.
I seldom eat dessert but I do on occasion like a Crème brûlée, in this instance priced at R60 and a little on the cold side – not the best I have had.
Now if this review sounds lukewarm, it is not my intention. As stated at the top, reviewing a new restaurant is not necessarily fair and overall, I really like Shucked – An Oyster Bar. I am going back, not just for more oysters but also to sample their French Onion Soup, possibly Tuna Crudo, which is described as tuna, lemon and capers, and definitely my own helping of Brothy Beans.
Shucked is not only an attraction as is, it has immense potential.
Shucked – An Oyster Bar is at 357 Jan Smuts Avenue, Craighall Park. Phone 0828830195 Check business hours with the restaurant.