It’s a sunny day in Melbourne and you decide to head to St Kilda for lunch. You enjoyed the meal, loved it even, but then you come back home and there’s nothing like that here. Not until now, anyway. For those unfamiliar with the name, Claypots is self-taught Mediterranean chef Renan Goksin’s brand of restaurants in the Australian coffee capital. The new concept in Singapore marks the first Claypots establishment outside of the down under, and like the original, is all about Mediterranean-style seafood intertwined with Southeast Asian flavours.
So, why Claypots Full Circle? As it turns out, Renan once visited Singapore during his travels and was largely inspired by the local cuisine before starting his restaurant, hence the ‘full circle’. And inside the Amoy Street shophouse’s open kitchen (right opposite an impressive free-hand wall graffiti of an octopus and fishing hook), the dishes mostly stay true to its siblings too.
The blackboard special St. Kilda Shellfish Stir-Fry (charged at market price) is one to get, but bring a few mates while you’re at it. There are sufficiently fresh flower crabs, mussels, clams, and large prawns tossed with coriander, lemongrass, and other spices in a wok. Below, a mound of rice soaks up the irresistibly spicy house gravy. It’s a messy affair, but if you want more than just chilli crab, it’s decent.
Order a bowl of Port Arlington Mussels ($25), which is given the Southeast Asian treatment with a mountain-load of coriander, some kaffir lime leaves, and tasty – sambal oelek – housemade with sardines, ginger, garlic lime, same sambal. It’s finished with garlic, wine and butter in the style of Italian vongole, but imbued with a lot more heat and a touch of smoky wok hei. I’m told that the kitchen team (Head Chef Nicholas Teo and Sous Chef and wok specialist Soo Kok Ann) have had stints in zi char eateries, where quality wok skills make all the difference between outstanding and mediocre.
If you like, there are several creations exclusive to the Singapore offshoot that are worth trying. Start with the creamy Cheese Saganaki ($15), an oven-baked halloumi caramelised with sugar a la creme brûlée before being topped with sesame seeds and orange zest for a sweet zing. The Okra tossed with Dried Shrimp ($7) hits closer to home with heibi and housemade rempah – it’s nice, but you can save space for the other offerings.
Later, an extra-large Garlic Prawn (charged at market price) comes sizzling in a hot plate. It’s typically a meaty tiger prawn that sits in its own juices with quality olive oil, garlic, and again, more coriander. Take the head and suck it clean – I don’t know why more people don’t do that here. It’s delicious on its own, and you might forget that it comes served with freshly-baked Turkish pide (a flatbread similar to pita) but really, please use it to sop up that shiny sauce. It’s worth it.
An import from Melbourne, the Moroccan Claypot ($26) holds a special significance on the Claypots menu, and is a favourite of Renan’s. But I can see why, with plump fillets of flaky flounder, clean mussels and clams seasoned with a tomato-based sauce. Moroccan spices and herbs and injected into a potent harissa sauce mix, and then, a bed of couscous that soaks everything up.
If there’s a main difference between Claypots Full Circle and the Claypots in Melbourne, it’s where they get their seafood from – the ones here are mainly sourced from the region, save for a few exceptions. Still, it’s a reasonable and prudent decision, and if the chefs here manage to maintain the same standards as Renan’s recipes, there’s no problem. Because it is just this sort of spice-rich cooking that makes the Claypots brand so formidable.
Claypots Full Circle is located at 103 Amoy St, Singapore 069923, p. +65 6203 2203. Open Mon-Fri 10.30am – 12am, Sat 5pm – 12am. Closed Sun.