Claypots Full Circle

The hype: Story goes that the founder, an Australian Turkish, came to Singapore some 24 years ago and fell in love with our local claypot cuisines. When he returned home to Melbourne, he combined that with influences from his native Turkish tagines, and voilah; Claypots was born. The popular chain now has four outlets in Melbourne, and the newest in Singapore is the first outside the country.

The vibe: Part gastropub and part elegant bar, situated on the prime stretch of the Amoy Street area. You’ll be cozy and comfortable whether you’re seated in a booth or at the open-kitchen counter.

The food: The small plates are intended for sharing, but portions are pretty generous. While the food remains Mediterranean (in terms of ingredient makeup) and seafood-centric, flavors here draw from local cuisines. The Cheese Saganaki ($15)—an oven-baked halloumi cheese with a creme bruelee of candied orange—is a sweet alternative to your usual lighter starter; and probably the least Asian dish on the menu. Else there’s the Atlantic Sardines with Kaffir Lime Leaves ($12) sourced from the North Atlantic, but coated with a house sambal spice paste so they taste more like nasi lemak fish.

Seafood here is fresh and clearly international; the Full Circle Port Arlington Mussels ($25) are indented twice a week from Port Arlington in Victoria. Spice is added earlier into the dish, as opposed to in Australia when it’s added at the end, to let it soak into the mussel for an all-round spicier take for the local palate—considerate little details that make Claypots Full Circle a gem. The Garlic Prawn (singular, and sold at market price) is usually either a Tiger, Banana or Indian White Prawn, juicy on a sizzling hotplate; with Turkish pide bread flown in from Melbourne that’s given a new lease of life when dipped into the heady garlic prawn sauce. If you’re here in a group, the Fish of the Day is a safe bet—mainly because it comes with an addictive Chermoula mix made of cumin, coriander and parsley; fresh and exotic with a tinge of sourness.

The restaurant’s namesake dishes don’t disappoint; the tomato-based Moroccan Claypot ($26) broth with seafood will knock you out with its fragrant aroma—a distinctly Indian spice smell created from paprika and cumin. But definitely save room for the signature St Kilda Shellfish Stir-Fry (market price), a massive stir-fry of seafood (mussels, prawns, shellfish), and the only item on the menu where you can get flower crab. Smart move.

The drinks: An international line-up of red and white wines, plus house pours at $15. The one and only beer served here is Pilsner Urquell on tap ($9-$15); Claypots Full Circle is the only restaurant in Singapore to exclusively stock the original pilsner. But you’ll want to taste from the bar’s extensive list of cocktails, with cheeky names like My Gigolo (gin, thyme, vanilla and lemon; $23) and Take That Jacket Off (aperol, limoncello, grapefruit and cranberry; $23). We had The Coffee ($23)—the bartender’s lighter take on an espresso martini, made with bourbon, scrumptious Frangelico liquer, Maraschino cherry syrup and espresso.

Why you’ll be back: If you’re a fan of the brand, you’ll want to stop by for the unique, homey take on Claypots’ best dishes; and even if you’re not, the restaurant has certainly nailed the intricate balance of Mediterranean Asian cuisine. The Singapore outpost has unfortunately (and oddly) done away with Claypots Australia’s practice of serving the food in claypots. What remains though is the same dedication to rich flavors and bold spices—bolder here, even—that first catapulted Claypots to fame so many years ago.