Claypots Seafood Bar (St Kilda)

213 Barkly St
St Kilda, VIC 3182
03 9534 1282
As visitors, cousin trouble and geek hubby have every right to be fussy about what they expect to eat in Melbourne. One of trouble’s cravings was to have a “good grilled seafood platter”. Now this might sound easy to find, but I truly had no clue where to get such a thing. Most seafood places I know of like St Peters, Livebait and Waterfront seems to serve seafood ala fine dining style. Trouble wants to see and eat straight seafood as it is: shells, heads, feelers and legs! Even when I browsed through a few more places, most of the seafood platters had nonsense like deep-fried crumbed calamari and battered fish fillets.
So I once again turned to the collective wisdom of twitter. “Is there anywhere in Melbourne good seafood platters for my #visitingcousins… Anyone??”. I wasn’t hoping for much. Unlike other tweeters, most of the time the questions that I yell into the twitterverse tends to be replied with  … **crickets**. But this time, a mere five minutes later, @ribenaberry replied “Claypots”. There’s faith in humanity yet. And regarding Claypots, I remembered my boss raving about it. Two hours later, we found ourselves at its doorstep.
Claypots is located just around the corner from Acland and Barkly St. I quite like St Kilda as a suburb with its beachside atmosphere, European feel and scruffy-quirky backpackers.
You have to walk through the bar section before entering the eatery, it serves as a waiting area where you can have drinks while waiting for a table at night. This restaurant is VERY busy in the evenings and they don’t take bookings.
Front dining section
Back dining section. The restaurant’s vibe is very different at night, as you will see later.
The big, friendly, apronned lady with orange hair served us. She told us not to freak out being the only diners there. I was thrilled to have the whole place to ourselves, so relaxed…! We sat in this gravelled outdoor courtyard lined with overhanging plants and nice sky views.
As the breads were served, we started ordering. In typical troublestyle, my lovely cousin over-ordered and the lady-kitchen-matron had to whittle things down for us. After listening to what we were looking for, she gave us a good indication of what dishes we would most likely enjoy. She even advised us to not bother with ordering the claypot-style dishes, go for the actual seafood. I had a good hunch this would be a great meal.
Complimentary turkish bread with dips. My advice is: save this bread for later… you’ll see why.
Steamed Mussels $25

Geek hubby
and myself are normally not that fond of mussels. They tend to be overcooked, meaty and slightly brackish in taste. And there’s this stringy pubic tuft in them that gets caught in your teeth sometimes, think it’s called the ‘beard’. But this bamboo basket of mussels was, I quote geek hubby, “insanely fresh”. And only 1 of them had a beard! Lol the rest were ‘clean shaven’. But I agreed with geek hubby, they were cooked perfectly! Look at the picture below, the meat’s still so succulent and clean with no opaqueness. The dish was topped with coriander, chilli and lemongrass so there was a slight Asian slant to it.

Fried King Prawn $9ea

Okay, that garlic chilli oil cradling the king prawns —> “Swoooon!”. Geek hubby simply said “This chilli oil is the ideal seasoning for any food that you’d ever want to eat”. Troubleand I couldn’t stop nodding our heads. So so good for dipping your breads in. That’s why I told you to save your breads served at the start of the meal. You see? I always have your interest at heart. And please, for this one meal, ignore any silly phobias and aversions towards oil and calories and so forth. Its okay to get fat from prawn oil, after all… it should be considered the nectar of sea gods. Okay, that’s enough bardic yodelling. The prawns themselves were just as amazingly fresh and cooked to perfection. The prawn legs were so crunchy that I ate them all.

Geek hubby and I illustrating how the chilli oil can be a universal dip. Mussels being dipped in the oil here.
Pan fried yabbies $30
Claypots really stocks wonderfully fresh seafood. These yabbies were once again pristine. While trouble and hubbyboth said the chilli sauce was nice, I found it a bit on the sweet garlicky side. That’s the risk when you serve me Asian-fusion style cooking, I’m harder to please. But still, I can’t fault the freshness of the yabbies, they were absolutely delicious. There was rice underneath that mound of seafood which we didn’t touch because were were so stuffed with good seafood!
This could’ve been the first time I’ve eaten yabbies. They remind me of mini lobsters.
Grilled Bugs $35

In my notebook, I wrote “chaotar flavour excellent, delicious. I started using my fingers at the end. Swabbing rice and gravy from everywhere after the bread ran out.”. (‘chaotar‘ is Singlish for grilled/burnt taste)
Hahaha! I have no idea what I was thinking or trying to phrase. But I think I was trying to describe how the meal ended in an almost feast-like barbaric way for us. Digging out the bug’s flesh with my fingers, grabbing rice, or breads, dipping into this gravy or that sauce. That’s eating turned into something primal, tactile, tasty, and absolutely joyful. I seriously take after my dad. You should see him eat crabs… OMG, scary yet mesmerising, and very appetising!

That seafood lunch was so damn good that cousin trouble actually made us eat here again the day before they left Melbourne! We turned up at 7.30pm on a Saturday night and had to wait in the bar area for nearly an hour. It was pleasant, I didn’t mind having drinks and chatting. I’ve come to accept that in order to have good food, there sometimes has to be a wait. The dinner buzz was really pulsing around the place, so different from our quiet lunch.
Sadly, by the time we were seated, they were out of a lot of the seafood. No yabbies nor bugs. We really wanted to have that delicious lunch all over again! Thankfully, we still could have more of that king prawns in heavenly chilli oil. The next two dishes we ordered were sort of second choice, and because they were Asian-themed dishes, I found them harder to appreciate.
Chilli Crabs $50

Trouble and hubbyseemed to really enjoy the crabs. The meat was very fresh and succulent. I will confess now that at this point I had started medication for a tummy bug and it really curbed my appetite. So that night, I basically looked at food with puzzlement rather than my ususal anime-like enthusiasm. Because this dish was named ‘chilli crabs’, I had unreasonable expectations of how it should taste, ie. like Singapore chilli crabs. It tasted nothing like that of course, there wasn’t much spiciness to it.

Sambal Stingray $40

By the time we got to the stingray we were very full, so we were just stuffing ourselves at that point. I feel really bad for being brutal with this dish. But once again, I was disappointed. The sambal had lots of garlic, but didn’t have enough heat and was too sweet. The stingray itself was cooked to a firmer, meaty texture. I kept recalling how smooth, juicy and silky stingray dishes can taste like back home, served on a banana leaf, complete with a lime and cincalok chilli sauce. This version didn’t satisfy me. But trouble and hubby thinks it isn’t a bad dish.
Moral of the story is, giving your dish a hawker food name raises the ante significantly when it comes to hardcore fussy Singaporean and Malaysian diners like me. Beware. ;-)
Despite one or two misses, Claypots has got to be one of the best places to get seafood of the freshest quality and at reasonable prices. If you know of other excellent places, let me know! Trouble and hubby liked the food here because it’s cooked in an almost Mediterranean style with hints of asian flavours/spices that weren’t overpowering. I’d say come for lunch when it’s peaceful, sunny and quiet. Or turn up early for dinner so that you won’t be disappointed if they run out of things.
This also marks the end of my cousin trouble food posts. Bye bye, awesome geek hubby food-pic contributions. I think they had a pretty good time here and they were wonderful guests in my home. Trouble even said that they could easily come visit again because the food here is so good! I say man…. Anytime!! Before they walked through the sliding doors at Melbourne airport, troublewhispered to me “you’re very fun to eat with.” WIN!! :D

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