Located in the heart of Dublin’s Temple Bar and dwarfed between Starbucks and Leo Burdock, you could easily miss the humble frontage of this tiny seafood bar. And if so, you’d be missing out. It might not be much to look at, with its narrow interior, wooden tables, bar stools and haphazard décor, but the large blackboard menu offers up a seafood lover’s dream, from its platters of oysters and seafood rolls to its chowder, fish broth, Dublin Bay prawns, crab claws and catch of the day. Set up by Niall Sabongi of Rock Lobster, Klaw prides itself on the quality of its fresh seafood. To that end, a F&W Restaurant of the Year Best Casual Dining plaque is propped up against the wall, reminding diners of their win at our most recent awards. Indeed, it’s the judging panel’s high praise for this fun and laid-back shack that has drawn me here today. That, and my hankering for good seafood.
Arriving mere moments after they open for lunch on a Monday, I’m the first customer of the week and catch the two chefs-cum-waiters off-guard. They’re not quite ready – but I’m welcomed all the same. I’m warned their famous chowder is a few hours off being ready, but there’s plenty of other options to consider, including John Dory – the catch of the day.
Although I’m sticking to water given the early hour, it’s nice to see a small selection of wines by the glass chalked on the board featuring the lesser known Picpoul and Albarino white wine grapes in lieu of the usual suspects. Red wine drinkers can choose between Malbec or Shiraz and glasses of Prosecco are available for €7 a pop.
Solo diners, such as myself, will feel right at home in this casual environment, particularly when the atmosphere is so warm. After a bit of affable music debate, The Bee Gees ‘Staying Alive’ and Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ kick the chefs into gear as they prepare my California crab roll (€14.50) and fish taco (€12). Both are as fresh as can be. Not to be confused with the sushi variety, the California roll consists of an excellent quality soft bun (chargrilled on the outside for added crunch and flavour – it really is the little things) filled with fresh crabmeat, diced cucumber, avocado and spinach. It’s salty, but oh so good. The taco encases a wonderfully moist piece of John Dory that has been cooked just right, and topped with a delightfully tangy pico de gallo sauce and more spinach leaves, dressed with finely chopped onion and tomato. It’s a messy but scrumptious affair and an exciting way to enjoy a fresh piece of fish.
To my surprise, there’s a small selection of festive desserts (it was still Christmas at the time of writing) including plum pudding, mince pies and gingerbread available. I would have imagined this to be more of an ice-cream sundae type joint. I pass all the same. Given the space limitations and their location beside one of the world’s biggest coffee houses, I’m not surprised they don’t serve up any hot drinks themselves, but thankfully a member of staff offered up a recommendation for a newish café, Cocobrew, around the corner that is Irish-owned and much more up my street for a caffeine-fix.
Klaw proves that you don’t need all the bells and whistles to create an award-winning eatery. Here, there is nothing to distract from the quality of the food and the knowledge of the staff – both are exemplary. I’ll be back again, especially to try that chowder.
We loved the quality of all the ingredients, the selection of seafood and the friendliness of the staff
We spent €26 on two dishes and a sparkling water
5A Crown Alley, Dublin 2. Tel: +353 (0)1 549 3443; www.klaw.ie
Open: Mon – Wedn & Sun 12pm – 10pm; Thurs – Sat 12pm – 11pm