This is a strange place. As the entrance to the dining area is through a wine room, the first time we entered the space, there was nobody in attendance of the bar area and not a customer in sight. I thought it was strange that the front door was open but nobody was home so not wanting to be accused of anything, we left and went to Lau's Family Kitchen, which turned out to be a great experience as an aside. The second time that we attempted a visit to Claypots, we entered the wine bar area once again however there was a lady behind the bar this time. She looked at us incredulously and after inquiring about eating, she took us through the door leading to the dining room cautiously as I dawdled to look at the piano and notice a sign on the wall saying that an Elvis impersonator would be performing there at some point. I stopped to admire the fresh fish in the glass case in the dining room before sitting. An impressive selection of fish was on ice on display however the front of house seemed like she was on another planet so I refrained from asking questions about the curious things that I had just observed.
After taking a table and being provided a bottle of tap water, we were advised that the menu was on the wall along with some wines that were added as graffiti as a bit of an afterthought to the formal wine list that was presented that had nothing too out of the ordinary articulated from within its pages. As the Chilli Crabs ($55) came highly recommended, an order was placed for one serve of the crustaceans and also four Garlic Tiger Prawns ($10/each) which seemed like a reasonable amount of food for two people to share.
I went exploring and found an outside area where you can smoke however for half of the year I wouldn't want to be stuck out there eating considering the cold inclement weather. Sitting near the door that accesses this garden of sorts would also be an inconvenience for those that do not want to be bothered by second hand smoke.
After returning to the small table, the prawns were served in a thick metal bowl and were bathing in a sizzling garlic sauce. The oil and garlic hot bath made for a great dipping liquid for the hot fresh bread that was provided. We began the task of shelling the mighty beasts and removing the black intestinal tract. Although it doesn't hurt to eat this, I would prefer not to and the exposed flesh looks much better without it. Ultimately the prawn meat, the garlic bath and the bread combined to make a great starter. I am not a huge fan for working for my food and rarely will get prawns that require me to remove their shell manually but the effort was worth it in this case.
When the crabs appeared on a large long dish, stacked up on a bed of rice, with approximately twenty mussels, I was surprised and uttered blasphemy. The stack of seafood looked great however as the discard bowl, crab cracker, finger bowl and stack of serviettes appeared, we ran out of room on the table. We could have moved to a larger table at this point but it just seemed easier to get on with it.
As you can expect, when you start fiddling with the crab, it is a messy exercise. I wouldn't recommend visiting this restaurant on a date or if you need to do business as getting the crab meat from the shell is not a simple or clean task. After we each excused one another's bad manners, we employed every trick in the book to extract the beautiful crab meat using hands, utensils and frequently licking our fingers like hounds lap up food in a bowl. There was no point in being meek or timid as recovering the crab meat proves fun yet tedious and the product was well worth it. The mussels were obviously fresh when they were cooked and served with both the beard removed and the meat slightly exposed from the gasping shell. I really liked the mussels and were some of the best that I have had.
The dining room has some interesting artwork on the wall. One painting was a variation of an image that I studied in University. A giant squid with a naked woman along with some other oddities were used as decorations. Besides the large off-white painting canvass which was bare besides for the name of the genius who produced it, who's name was scribbled in the corner, the circuit breaker box was exposed on the dining room wall. The chef even appeared at one point to reset a circuit as he seemingly lost power somewhere that was near and dear to him.
What was a standout was the seafood however the other bizarre aspects like service and the ambiance made for an "interesting" experience. Specialising is one thing however when you are left talking about weird aspects of the service and fit-out it leaves amusing memories for all of the wrong reasons.
Claypots Seafood & Wine
213 Barkly Street, St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9534 1282
(03) 9534 1282
no web site
My Rating: 13.5/20
Value For Money: 3/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com