“I have bold visions for this place” says founder of the Claypots group, Renan Goksin, proudly. “Think lines out the door, several kinds of paella on the go – theatrics! Atmosphere! Something Melbourne has never seen…”
Goksin’s eyes twinkle as he describes his vision for this budding venue nestled amongst popular Hardware lane in the Melbourne CBD. In case you have been living under a rock, Claypots is famous in the Melbourne dining scene. The original restaurant, opened in 1987, is located in St Kilda on Barkly Street. It is bustling and action-packed, dishing out the freshest and most delicious Mediterranean-inspired seafood creations anywhere in Melbourne. With over 1.6K reviews on Zomato and an average rating of 4.5 stars, it’s hard to dispute that this restaurant has some serious street cred. Goksin has had many successful ventures since, including Claypots Express (also in St Kilda) and Claypots Evening Star (in South Melbourne). Claypots Barbarossa brings this outstanding pedigree into the heart of the CBD.
Claypots Barbarossa turns a new page from the basic design of its sister restaurant. Gone are the crammed tables, chairs and narrow dining space. Instead, this venue places strong emphasis on a dedicated area for standing room – imagine afternoon aperitifs with pintos that stretch into the evening where you grab a few plates to share. It is perfect for a balmy summer’s day, especially when you combine this with the amazingly fresh seafood that Claypots is renowned for. Think Cajun-spiced flat head served with crushed potatoes, baked abalone, huge and fresh king prawns lightly sautéed in garlic, chilli and coriander and a perfectly prepared Barbarossa-style Greek salad. The seafood here is meaty and oh-so-fresh, perfectly complemented by gorgeous half-bottles of European wines, full bottles of local wines and beer on tap.
“We pride ourselves on freshness and simplicity, serving ‘food without fetish’. Our priority is to minimise the time between the source and the plate; we buy our food fresh and prepare and sell it the same day. We focus on lesser-known varieties of sea produce, bought daily and treated simply.”
The food at Claypots Barbarossa is under the command of owner and head chef Nurul Waselin, who has been working with Goksin for over 10 years. As he speaks of his culinary background, it is obvious that he is hard working and passionate about his job. There is a fire in his eyes that you can see stems from his love of the kitchen.
“A great restaurant starts with beautiful food” Goksin confides, “but the soul of a restaurant comes from bringing people together in a shared space.”
He speaks of the importance of venue design and how Claypots Barbarossa has been carefully curated into two integrated spaces; the lower area is open plan, primed for groups to enjoy a drink, small dishes, and complimentary appetizers between 5:30-6:30pm, whereas the upper dining area is an intimate space for casual sit-down dinners as small groups or couples. The venue’s interior design uniquely reflects Goksin’s style wherever you look – everything from books to retro stereo players from his extensive personal collection.
The launch of Claypots Barbarossa is perfectly timed for the summer seafood season, offering up its trademark health-pleasure-impulse culinary experience for those meandering along Hardware Lane. Our recommendation? Don’t wait until the lines are out the door and the paella runs out … swing by for a drink, a meal and a laugh on your next occasion out and enjoy the food which is famous south of Melbourne.
The important stuff
Opening hours: 11am – 10pm daily, closed on Sundays
Address: 79 Hardware Lane, Melbourne
For bookings call (03) 9670 5255.
Photography by Peter Tarasiuk.