After opening neighbourhood seafood restaurant Muli on a cosy Carlton corner last year, the Tran family has expanded its operation into the CBD. Van Tran, her husband David Tran Sr and son David Tran Jr, recently opened Muli Express, an oyster bar in a small shopfront on Little Bourke Street.

Van and her husband were the driving force behind Footscray Market’s famed D&K Live Seafood until they handed the keys over to Van’s brother-in-law and niece and shifted focus to Muli last year. But at Muli Express, it’s their son who you’ll most likely see behind the oyster counter (and smiling with customers on Instagram).

Van Tran and David Tran Jr. Photography: Jordan Price

Never miss a Melbourne moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.


There’s usually a dozen or more varieties of oyster on offer at any time, and the Trans will help guests navigate the range. “Creamy, sweet, crunchy, big or small. I can point you in the right direction,” says Van. “All freshly shucked, just like at the farm.”

Each oyster variety is given a special name by the Tran family, “to give them identity and individuality” says David Sr. Baby Pitt is from Pittwater; Big Boy from Duck Bay; Miss Candy from Moulting Bay; and So Extra from Boomer Bay. David Sr says the oysters’ taste, farmers, region and size all play a role in their naming.

In addition to oysters, you’ll find congee, lobster rolls, marron rolls, oyster ice-cream and sea urchins. The oyster bar is open until 9pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, and while the official opening hours from Wednesday through Sunday are midday to 4pm, Muli Express often stays open late into the evening depending on demand.

Photography: Jordan Price

The 18-square-foot outpost is more casual than the restaurant and is a bit like stepping into their family home. “The set-up here is very similar to Muli. It’s very homely and warm and just a happy place,” says Van. White lace drapes and fake plants soften the ocean-blue brick walls.

“It’s a tiny space but we never rush anybody, we like to talk,” Van tells Broadsheet. “We want to be able to share our knowledge, just like at Muli.”

There are a couple of small tables, also draped in white lace, but most of the work (and eating) is done standing at the counter. “It’s like an oyster shucking bar. You stand there, select which one you want, then we open them for you,” says Van. “We do takeaway, but you don’t need to take it away. Just stand here and eat. That’s the best way.”

Muli Express
163 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
No phone

Wed to Sun midday–4pm
Mon to Tue midday–9pm