Here’s the first of ten stories about my recent trip to Melbourne. Long time readers will know that this has become a yearly event which of course coincides with the Formula One Grand Prix. In fact, I think this was my fifth time at the Australian GP!
As a regular visitor, there are some restaurants which have become part of my Melbourne eating ritual… But what I love most is still being able to discover brilliant new places!
Claypots Seafood Bar was one of my new finds on this particular visit.
They don’t take table reservations, but let me assure you that the gamble for a table here is so worth it.
Zen and I rushed here after watching the qualifying race and waited by the counter for the words which would make or break our evening. “Yes, there’s a table for two just by the door”. Hooray.
The counter was glowing with fresh seafood, ranging from red emperors to flounders to the shellfish of your dream. The decor is Asian crossed with Bohemian. The noise level is high and the long railway bench-style seat isn’t the most comfortable, but the sight of bubbly claypots and enormous seafood platters all around transports me into a foodies’ paradise.
Clearly looking like newbies, a waitress guides us through the blackboard menus. Claypots are all $20. There’s Malay which has sticky rice, laksa, stingray, fish fillets and mussels, Moroccan which has couscous, eggplant, chickpeas, fish fillets and mussels, Cajun which is a gumbo with okra, tomatoes, sticky rice, fish fillets and mussels and Kerela which is made up of tamarind, coriander, garam masala, mussels, sticky rice, fish fillets and dry shrimps. Then there’s the main menu which we have to strain our necks to see (as we’re seated directly beneath it). She says they focus on cooking the fishes whole and points out a few exceptions.
We start with a garlic king prawn each which don’t come cheap at $9 each. They’re served sizzling hot in a small wok with pieces of bread, perfect for absorbing the fragrant oil. The prawns are extremely plump and so flavoursome.
Next we have the cajun claypot ($20) which is bubbling away and placed on yet another huge stack of paper napkins. It is perfectly spiced, with tender pieces of fish, mussels, okra, tomatoes and other vegetables. I dig into the bottom for the crispy layer of browned rice – yum!
Our crispy skin silver dory ($40) is even more magnificent. Served whole, the skin is indeed crispy and deliciously flavoured with an Asian garlic salt mix; the white flesh is succulent and naturally sweet. The accompanying baked kipfler potatoes and steamed bok choy makes it a complete feast which we gleefully polish off.
The table of four beside us look thrilled at the sheer enormity of their red emperor, served with lemongrass sambal ($100). While waiting for the bill, I plot to return with a larger party to ensure we can order this next time.
Ladies and gents, I’d like to declare that Claypots has hit the mark and will be a new addition to my Melbourne eating ritual! So stay tuned for more visits to this new fave later in the year!
(P.S. There are nine more Melbourne stories coming soon this month)
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Claypots Seafood Bar
213 Barkly Street, St Kilda, Melbourne, VIC
Phone: (03) 9534 1282