New fondue restaurant to replace Wild Bistro in January


Photo by Fiona Lawler

Wild Bistro, 37 E. High St., is closing its doors but is soon to reopen under new ownership as The Secret Elephant, a fondue restaurant with a full bar.

By Fiona Lawler

Wild Bistro, an Asian restaurant at 37 E. High St., will close its doors for good by the end of November due to revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in its place will be a new fondue restaurant, complete with a full bar.

Desi Durkin, an Oxford resident and current partner in Wild Bistro, will be the new owner of the new place, which will be called “The Secret Elephant.”

“I posted a poll on Facebook for Oxford residents to vote on which name they liked the best, as I want this restaurant to be a communal space,” said Durkin.

Durkin has been friends with the Grace Lee family that owns Wild Bistro and knew they were looking to sell. The family has owned Wild Bistro since 2017, and Durkin became a partner this past month.

Grace Lee currently resides in China. Her son has been helping his parents during the pandemic by taking over as the head cook and manager of the restaurant. 

“We will be keeping the crowd-pleasing crab Rangoon on the new menu,” Durkin said.

Lee is transferring over the deed to Durkin, who will then be working to transform Wild Bistro into a new, unique restaurant in Oxford. Lee will be one of the investors in Durkin’s restaurant. 

“It all happened so fast. We are hoping to open this coming January,” said Durkin. 

As the new owner, manager and head chef, Durkin is excited for the new Oxford addition.

“We finally nailed down our theme,” said Durkin. 

The fondue restaurant will be serving French-style foods. Besides the fondue, The Secret Elephant will offer soups, salads, sandwiches, and charcuterie boards. Durkin herself has many home-made soup recipes she is eager to put on the menu.

 “I was looking to do something different that would appeal not just to locals, but Miami students alike,” said Durkin.

As the menu is unique and eclectic in comparison to what Oxford currently offers, Durkin hopes it will bring in a diverse group of customers.

A restaurant by day, Durkin plans to have a more bar-like atmosphere at night.

“I’ve been using forms of social media, such as Facebook, to post feelers in order to cater to the Oxford community,” said Durkin.

The atmosphere will be a very modern and sleek bistro and bar, according to Durkin. 

The renovations will be fairly simple, mostly redecorating, with the only exception being adding in the full bar, which Wild Bistro does not have.

Durkin has obtained the liquor license that is required, which puts her one step closer to the grand opening in January.

“I hope to include a small dance space for the bar at night and there will be music,” said Durkin.

So far, Durkin has encountered a great deal of support from the Oxford community.  The Oxford Chamber of Commerce has been in touch with her and has been very supportive in her endeavor during such a hectic time, she said.

“We are super excited, as we want to see new businesses grow in Oxford and for our community to thrive,” said Kelli Riggs, president of the chamber.

The chamber has been working hard to support small business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are doing everything we can to support her in the opening of her new restaurant, which will be totally unique to Oxford,” said Riggs.

“I’ve had amazing support from this blessed little community. People really come together here in Oxford,” said Durkin.

So far, Durkin said she has not encountered any challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic in opening the new restaurant. 

“When there is tragedy, there is also always opportunity,” she said.