Fresh face on the Auckland seafood scene is owning the oyster game

case studies

The Auckland ferry building is one of the city’s most beautiful relics of a bygone era. It went up in 1912, and still serves today as the main port for the city’s ferries. With the sound of boats tugging against their moorings and the salty smell of the harbour in the air, it’s hard to imagine a more authentic spot to crack open some fresh New Zealand oysters washed down with a crisp pinot gris. This is New Zealand fare at its very best.

The Shucker Brothers Oyster Bar and Seaside Eatery thought so, too. Owner Geoff Tippett and his wife Ana were originally looking to open their gelato store in the ferry building, but when they saw the location, instead decided to split the space and venture into seafood as well. With local fisherman literally on their doorstep, the allure of oysters straight from the ocean and served up to hungry tourists was too good to resist.

“Originally, we were wanting to open a mobile oyster cart to take around to weddings,” says Geoff, “but decided to go with the shopfront when we found the space.”

A bricks-and-mortar restaurant proved the right way to go, with Auckland locals and swarms of visitors quickly becoming fans of their super fresh, sea-to-plate offering. Speaking with Viva online, Geoff says the plan was to create a live oyster shuck shack, “serving up oysters as fresh and fast as we can.” And that they have: you can watch head chef Mark Nicholson crack open your ocean-fresh oysters on the spot.

It’s not just the oysters they’re coming for, either: Shucker Brothers are winning fans with their entire menu. Seafood is the main attraction, with crowd favourites being the tempura oysters with whipped horseradish cream, and crab doughnuts with tarragon, apple, and shrimp salt. Larger feeds are also on offer, like the wagyu hanger steak with chimichurri and charred eggplant, and barley & farro risotto with chargrilled artichoke.

Shucker Brothers have only been open less than three months, but their formula has proven to be a winner. This isn’t beginners luck for Geoff and Ana, though: they are already the proud owners of Island Gelato on Waiheke, whose second store is Shucker Brother’s next door neighbour.

“We were opening up the gelato store in the ferry terminal space when we decided it was such a big tenancy we should split it in half,” says Geoff. With Island Gelato already a success on Waiheke, they figured there was a little more room to play with a new concept - and with fresh seafood right in their new backyard, a high-end oyster bar seemed like a good place to start.

The Tippetts have an eye for hospitality trends. They were the first to bring ‘boutique ice cream’ to Waiheke after a trip to Sydney, where they were blown away by the high end offerings of Messina and other artisan gelato stores. With Ana a talented chef (and Masterchef New Zealand alumni), they took a gamble and won.

“Luckily, we were successful from the start,” says Geoff. “With passion and Ana’s creativity, we were able to get an amazing response from the locals.”

After three years in the business, they decided it was time to take their gelato concept to the ‘big smoke’, and started searching for a location in Auckland. The city’s historic ferry building on Quay Street was an immediate favourite.

Designed by Emily Priest and Alex Davies of Cheshire Architects, the cosy but well-considered space offsets the centuries-old sandstone with handsome dark wood flooring, modern lighting, and an impressive glass display where you can watch the shucking happen. It’s contemporary, stylish, and a welcome pit stop for those coming or going from the busy ferry terminal.

Geoff isn’t entirely new to the hospitality game: before branching out on his own with Island Gelato, he worked for many years with Allpress coffee. Here, he got a taste for what works when attracting customers with a small, boutique offering.

“I really enjoyed the planning part of Shucker Brothers,” says Geoff, “especially after so many years of learning what formulas work in regards to branding and what not. I was passionate about the sociable side of hospitality, and got to the point when I was ready for my own independence.”

It was at this point that Geoff begun to look around for help in turning his oyster fantasy into a reality. Silver Chef was an obvious choice, having already assisted the couple with their gelato concept stores. To get the Shucker Brothers store up and running, they enlisted Silver Chef to source and finance an ice machine, freezer, pre-rinse fisher, bottle cooler, and more.

Once the equipment was sorted, it all came down to finessing their concept. Auckland is a big seafood town, says Geoff, and felt ripe for a down-to-earth seafood eatery.

“We wanted to take oysters away from the fine dining space and make them more accessible,” says Geoff. “There were lots of people selling oysters - but no one was doing a speciality oyster bar.” Gone are the white tablecloths and hefty price tags, with Shucker Brothers instead putting the focus on fresh produce and a walk-in, casual dining experience.

“And big push was to take oysters away from the exclusive realm of champagne and fine dining, and serve them with craft beer and other great seafood,” says Geoff.

The rustic, seafaring feel of Shucker Brothers is a refreshing change for Auckland, who (much like the rest of the world) has been swept up in the Americana burger phase for the last few years. With a return to simple flavours, high-quality produce, and clean, healthy dishes, Shucker Brothers is sure to remain a hit.