First things first: yes, The Walrus is named for the Beatles song. The name also nods to the Lewis Carroll poem The Walrus and the Carpenter (which itself inspired John Lennon’s opus), and much like those titular characters, you’ll be snacking on oysters at this friendly neighbourhood wine bar.

The new breezy St Kilda hideaway is the work of business and life partners Marty Webster and Amy McGouldrick, who met while McGouldrick was running Prahran’s intimate wine bar The Alps and Webster was general manager for the group that also counts Toorak Cellars, Milton Wine Shop and The Moon among its portfolio. (McGouldrick went on to work at Andrew McConnell’s Trader House while Webster took a break from hospitality to make wine at Garagiste in the Mornington Peninsula).

After moving to St Kilda two years ago, the couple realised there wasn’t a local bar they wanted to drink wine in. “There are one hundred venues down here where you can get a drink, like a pint of beer … but nowhere for a great and interesting wine,” says Webster. “So, quite selfishly, [The Walrus] is for us at the end of the day.”

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It seems other locals were pining for a great wine bar, too. Webster and McGouldrick have kept prices low to enable repeat visits (half of the eight wines by the glass are $13 to $14), and since opening at the end of last year, the bar has acquired dedicated regulars who pop in several times a week.

The bottle list currently sits at 110 drops, but it’s no less accessible than the by-the-glass offering. “I don’t want to have a wine list full of bottles that aren’t affordable in the day-to-day. So even at our higher end with our champagnes or chablis, they’re [from] small enough winemakers that the price is down on them, but the quality is exceptional.”

Webster also seeks out lesser-known grapes from lesser-known regions, like vinho verde from Minho in Portugal. “We want to work with people who are connected to the vines … so that means we’re working with some smaller places, with winemakers whose hands are in the dirt,” he says.

The “kitchen” is simply a portable induction and a countertop oven, so the food is kept snacky – daily-changing pintxos scrawled on a mirror, like gildas, a range of oysters, tinned seafood, tuna tartare and a dainty crust-free lobster and prawn sando. For Webster, who’s also a chef, the limitations of the kitchen are an opportunity to get creative.

On Sundays, the menu amps up – what Webster calls “meze to the max” – with additional plates like crab choux pastries, crayfish crumpets, tuna gildas and mussel beignets. There are also half-serve Martinis and plenty of popped bottles of fizz. “We go a little over the top,” he laughs.

It’s an ideal Sunday session, complemented by the couple’s eclectic record collection (from Bill Withers to J Dilla and MF Doom). The venue is bright, with a warm and extremely yellow colour scheme thanks to yellow walls, curtains, art and glasses filled with golden muscadet. It’s a laid-back, homey sort of vibe that Webster and McGouldrick took particular care to create.

“Plenty of spaces out there look stunning, but they’re not practical and they’re not overly comfortable … maybe they’re lacking a bit of soul and that thoughtfulness of how the guests and staff are going to experience the space,” says Webster. “Once you have that set up right, everything else is a breeze. We’re opening oysters, so the work is done for us. We just have to buy good product. Same with the wine – the skills and labour have already gone into that by the great winemakers. We’re just facilitating that … so it’s on us to keep that space really good.”

The Walrus Wine and Oyster Bar
9 Inkerman Street, St Kilda
No phone

Tue to Thu 3pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm
Sun 12pm–6pm