It's time for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and unfortunately I'm too busy to participate. Shock and horror I know, but my best friend, N1 is getting married next weekend and there's much to do. Not to mention the 4-day working weeks I've been enjoying as a result of hens trips away and the wedding itself. Every second weekend I seem to take Friday and Monday off so it's a high life.
Between dress fittings, shoe shopping and various other tasks for the bride, there hasn't been much time for food, so I was keenly anticipating a visit to Claypots in St Kilda last night. I am a relative seafood newbie, refusing to eat fish the entire first half of my life and only recently converting to prawns. So Claypots was going to be a challenge. I desperately wanted to go to see the place live up to it's reputation but did this mean I had to eat the slippery things that come from shells?
As I had tennis lessons 'til 8.30 I sent my dining companions along to deal with the stressful event of getting a table. I managed to swan up at 9pm, down half a beer and stroll straight in. Oh what an easy life. However it must be said the others didn't arrive until 8.30 and we were still seated by 9.30 (for those that don't know, Claypots does not take boookings).
The restaurant is a pure festival upon entry. Walk through the bar to see glum faces of people desperately seeking a table then it's straight past the kitchen with the evening's selections staring at you from the display. Continue and you're confronted with tables of noisy people criss-crossing arms to get at the communal seafood plates while jazz blares in the background. We were seated in a booth, carriage style complete with luggage rack overhead. The waitress then went through the complicated process of ordering: all fish comes with potato and bokchoy and is priced according to size, with the famous Claypots ideal as side dishes or entrees.
Now if you think you're happy to eat late and believe turning up at 8.30 for a 9.30/10 table is no problem, be warned that they do run out of fish, a testament to their freshness policy I'm sure. We were able to choose from Snapper and Dory. Not such a big deal when you can still choose citrus roasted snapper to share.
Our fish was preceeded by a giant king prawn each. You might think all king prawns are giant but I now know there are king prawns, and there are king prawns. Served with bread and dripping in garlic oil I think we had the latter. Now I hope I'm not being sacreligious but I wasn't overly taken with the claypots. A mixture of rice, fish, mussels and pippis meant that yes, I did eat the slimy things from shells. I did this in quite a brave fashion after the obligatory chew or swallow jokes but honestly, I couldn't taste much other than the cajun spices of one and the moroccan spices of the other. Not to worry, it was handy filler to supplement our sensational snapper. I honestly believe this rather large snapper had been eating citrus it's whole life such was the intensity of flavour. Eating fish skin has never been so enjoyable. Underneath the pearly flesh had ot be the seafood version of wagyu beef, surely. I've never had such wonderful fish before, not even my parent's neighbour's macadamia and coconut stuffed red emperor.
By the end of the night I may nearly been completely won over to the seafood side of life.