Regretfully, I have never had the pleasure of spending a summer in the Hamptons, but I imagine if I were to be so lucky I would spend my days there in the sunshine, tucking into towers of ruby shelled lobsters on ice with a cool glass of wine in one hand and a plump oyster in the other. While our climate is less amenable to this little daydream of mine, a spot of good weather in Dublin is all that is needed to remind us that we have some of the world’s finest seafood waiting to be plucked from our coastlines.
Just as well then that the cobblestones of Temple Bar lead to a narrow corridor-like eatery, from the outside like a hole in the wall which reveals itself to be an authentic Maine-style crabshack within – behold the unassuming yet alluring Klaw. Rock Lobster’s little sister is a sassy younger sibling and with a tagline like #shuckandsuck you’d be forgiven for letting your curiosity get the better of you and wandering in, as I decided to do one sunny Saturday evening recently.
The first thing that struck me stepping in from the hustle and bustle of Temple Bar was that the tiny, shabby-chic space immediately felt like another world – perching on a high stool I could have been beside the sea, awaiting the arrival of a boat full of fresh haul. Blushing lobsters and crabs sit beside piles of langoustines and a rockpool of oysters, overflowing like a treasure trove.
I look around and immediately spot a clothesline of handwritten notes from previous happy customers, one in particular catching my eye – it seems Klaw has developed a reputation as a bit of a lothario seducing those looking to lose their oyster virginity. While my virtue in that regard was not intact on the night, I was intrigued to find out more about the legendary Klaw oyster offering.
There is no real definition between starters and mains on the chalkboard menu but rather an open-ended offering to order and eat until you are satisfied. With this in mind we opted to sample a number of dishes, like seafood tapas, to get things going.
First up was a Trio of Scallops (€13.50) on the half-shell, one bathed in garlic butter, another with lashings of gruyere and spinach and finally one crowned with salty bacon lardons. Each was cooked perfectly and the simplicity of toppings allowed the innate sweetness of the plump scallops to shine through – satisfying indeed.
Alongside our scallops we sampled Krab Toast (€10.50) which was exactly what it said on the tin – crisp sourdough topped with chunks of snow crab tossed through mayo which had been enriched with a dash of brandy and the most delicious part of the crab: the brown meat. Despite my tendency to steer clear of bread and the like, I stole numerous mouthfuls of this crabby crostini.
That said, with Klaw offering only sides of mac and cheese in three incarnations (plain, lobster or crab) or toasted sourdough my bug bear with bread kicked in to gear and I briefly felt a little crabby myself… only for our wonderful server Alex to klaw back (get it? sorry!) some brownie points by offering to whip me up a side salad (€3). This captures Klaw’s ethos perfectly, as laid back and hassle-free as a warm summer’s evening on the beachfront, they want to ensure you get exactly what you want and leave happy – these little touches count.
The pièce de résistance, the Seafood Platter (€45), arrived with great ceremony and looked abundant and inviting, overflowing on its ice mountain. Half a lobster, snow crab, Dublin Bay prawns and an selection of oysters begged to ripped apart but luckily for me and my lack of dexterity, very little shelling was needed. I love to share… but when it comes to lobster I am a little greedy and this one, dunked in yuzu mayo was a real treat. The only problem? There is obviously only one lobster claw per sharing platter… but being offered it is infinitely better than a last Rolo. This was a decadent treat with none of the pomp that lobster and crustacean cousins are usually accompanied by – perfectly casual and equally delicious.
We all know prawns from Dublin Bay in particular are world renowned, but do you know how very different oysters from various parts of the country can taste? Klaw boasts the largest variety of oysters in any restaurant in Ireland and is quite simply Mecca for lovers of the delicacy. In addition to Waterford, Galway and Dooncastle, we were particularly lucky to get our hands on a fresh consignment of Flaggy Shore oysters.
Sourced between the foothills of the Connemara mountains and Galway Bay, Flaggy Shore inspired Seamus Heaney’s Postscript and I was close to writing poetry about the beauty of these luxurious little mouthfuls. Flaggy Shore oysters prove good things come in small packages, petite but intense and completely crave-worthy, oyster virgins – prepare to be taken.
The few things Klaw does, it does very well. There is a confidence in each dish, unapologetic in their lack of pompousness being enjoyed on paper plates with plastic forks. Finger bowls? Nope – wet wipes all the way, and I am a-ok with this. At the end of the day, you are being served the finest, freshest seafood on these shores and regardless of the vessel this is something special. Our bill for a selection of dishes, a seafood platter, dessert and a bottle of crisp Albarino for €38 came to €117.
Klaw is whimsical, playful and something very unique in a restaurant these days – memorable. I love finding a place that I can’t wait to return to, and Klaw makes sure you feel this way from your first dish to your last. Klaw is an experience rather than just a meal, it is a little seaside holiday for a night, the kind you make it your business to repeat as soon as possible.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that (and greed) as the ultimate motivators, I quickly realised that home-baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, which fuelled my desire to set my focus on food in a serious way. Working with The Taste allows me to satiate this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me as I share my food adventures and hopefully inspire others to indulge their passion for cooking and food in the process!