Oysters and Chandeliers

Favorite East Austin restaurant unveils lavish space for oysters and fun

Favorite East Austin haunt unveils lavish space for oysters and fun

Justine's Brasserie Winter Tent Winter Tent oyster Bar à Huîtres
Justine's lavish Winter Tent is open for business. Photo by Barbara FG

The holiday season is in full swing with the recent debut of Justine’s Winter Tent and oyster bar, Bar à Huîtres. In proper Parisian style, oysters are served on weekend nights until 1:30 am, preferably chased with champagne.

The elaborate tent, bathed in shades of deep blue and gold, transports guests into another realm of grandeur and sensory delights.

“The Winter Tent allows us to express our creativity and build a very different fantasy space out every year,” said Justine Gilcrease, who opened the late-night French restaurant on East Fifth Street with her husband Pierre Pelegrin in 2009. “This year we were inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and The Garden of Earthly Delights, with a bit of Versailles thrown in.”

Gilcrease turned to her longtime friend and Los Angeles-based artist Emily Andelin Hughes to evoke the surrealist scenes of the medieval painter’s famous triptych in this year’s Winter Tent. The first panel of the panorama depicts the Garden of Eden and innocence, and the final, damnation. The center larger center piece reflects erotic derangement and a paradise lost.

“There’s definitely a bizarre sexual tone to the painting,” Hughes said. “Sexuality has always been a topic that Justine and I studied and discussed and feel like needs more liberation in this country. That attracts both of us to this piece, because we like that sort of honesty.”

Hughes’ take on a Boschian world includes beautiful art, a lavish peacock and owl, imitations of otherworldly plants, and opulent elements like sparkling chandeliers — the latter inspired by Hughes and Gilcrease’s joint visit to the Palace of Versailles last summer.

“It’s a little bit extravagant,” Hughes said. “You feel that when you go [to the Winter Tent]. There’s this laissez-faire [sense] — let’s just create for fun and enjoy.”

Bar à Huîtres features a rotating selection of beauties, such as Summersides from Prince Edward Island, La Saint Simons from New Brunswick, Marionports from Massachusetts, and Wild Maine Belons. Follow Justine’s on Instagram and Facebook (@justinesbrasserie) for updates on the night’s oyster selection.

“We're believers in the saying: ‘Oysters only in months that have ‘r,’ so the oyster bar is open every weekend all winter,” Gilcrease said. Oysters are freshly shucked and ready for slurping, every Friday and Saturday, from 6 pm to 1:30 am.