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The logo looks like it belongs to something on Southbank, the interior looks like it belongs to Smith Street (pre Anada and Gigibaba). So what is a diner to expect when they walk into the St Kilda Claypots?
Firstly, it is highly likely that the restaurant will already be full, unless you’re dining on a Monday or Tuesday. They will suggest you have a drink in the side bar which again will already be full. The side bar is an intimate space with panels along the side of the wall which they call seating. We were on a forty minute waiting list for a table and the appeal of sitting in what really is a thoroughfare was not particularly pleasing however others seemed quite happy there. The bar man noticed us walk out and commented “if you have to wait for a table you’re spos’t to drink here to kill the time” – the truth is so refreshing sometimes!
Forty minutes later I get a call from the restaurant to say a table is ready for us. We get ushered to the front of the restaurant. The place is divided into two dining areas, one at the front that looks out to Barkly Street, and one at the back that looks out to not much. There is a chiller display in the centre that showcases the catches of the day – behind this is the kitchen. The seating is a mix of square tables, circular tables and booths. If possible I would suggest you request a seat at the front as it has a bit more atmosphere and better lighting.
Noticing the wine we bought in ($10 BYO) we were promptly provided with glasses, complimentary breads and taken through the menu which is on two chalk boards. One with a variety of dishes predominantly fish/seafood focused, the other with the claypots. The waitress happily talked us through the menu although was a bit brief on explaining how much would really be needed for a party of three. On the contrary, my friend went in the following night and said their waiter was very helpful.
We did pick up from the waitress that dishes are made to be shared. Our first course was the king prawns, one prawn per person. They were huge and exceptionally meaty so I did feel like I was getting my money’s worth. The prawns were cooked in a hot Asian oil dressing and presented sitting in the pan with bread wedges sitting half in the oil. This acted as a perfect sponge to mop up the gorgeous flavours. The freshness of their seafood was evident.
Two claypots were ordered, Malay Tagine and Moroccan Tagine. This was the perfect amount for three people – if you were with big eaters though I would suggest one each (that is, if you were going light on entree). The Malay Tagine was set on sticky rice and then topped with bok choy, chunks of fish and mussels. It was well drowned in a stunning sauce that had a great kick to it and can best be compared to a green curry. There was enough fish and mussels in the dish to not have to secretly scoop an extra few out when no one was looking. The Moroccan Tagine was a blueprint of the Malay Tagine except rice was replaced with medium sized couscous and egg plant was the main vegetable. It sat in a tomato based sauce again, with fish and mussel. What I liked about these two pots was that they arrived in the claypot itself which stayed warm as you slowly picked your way through the contents. The serving was generous but not ridiculous and there were plenty of juices and flavours right to the bottom of the pot.
All claypots are priced at $20 and the fish dishes range from $18 to $45 from memory. One prawn followed with claypot goodness, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine and I was well satisfied, totalling a recession friendly $23 each.
- I will go back to Claypots
- I will recommend Claypots
- I would not put it on my must-eat-at list