Review: The oyster’s your world at Klaw in Temple Bar

Dublin’s new seafood shack packs an extraordinary taste of the Atlantic into a tiny space

   
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Klaw

  • 2 Crown Alley, Dublin 2
  • None
  • Irish

We’re packed like sardines in a noisy broom cupboard and then all of a sudden we’re not. Instead I’m rockpooling in the rain in a damp Aran jumper on a wild western expanse of sea.

It’s all thanks to one extraordinary mouthful, a native oyster in Dublin’s tiny oyster bar Klaw that has distilled the beach into a bite.

Klaw is not for the claustrophobic or people who don’t like strangers staring at them. They’re not actually staring at you. They’re peering at the menu which is chalked up on the blackboard wall beside you. But the place has the dimensions of a packed train carriage so you may have to move an elbow to reveal the last name on the cocktail list.

Behind my back there’s a regular spine-straightening whoosh of a blow torch flaming oysters as they’re being delivered to the table. Not a place for small children, we note.

So Klaw is small on space but big on personality. It’s the spawn of Donnybrook restaurant Rock Lobster and they’ve squeezed it into Crown Alley in Dublin’s Temple Bar. There is a lot of tourist footfall past the door, and some have written notes now pinned to a toy-sized washing line about how they’ll return here if they come back to Dublin.

We have a large stainless steel bowl filled with crushed ice and faces, limbs, tentacles and claws in front of us. “I hate battling food. Food is my friend,” Jeanne remarks before getting cracking on the seafood platter. There’s a half lobster with claw, with a grapefruit laced mayonnaise for dunking. There are four pacific oysters in the sharing platter, two served naked and two gussied up. One has a hearty Thai soy and fish sauce with teeny cucumbers and coriander and the other a bloody Mary dressing where they didn’t stint on the vodka. There’s a crab and some langoustines.

There are paper plates, cracking tools and winklers to tease out the last thready pink bits of sweet lobster meat. Toasts in a stainless steel bucket provide some life rafts to ferry the bits and blobs of mayo (the marie rose has a nice kick of brandy in it) to your mouth. You are literally grabbing a bite here, wrestling it out of its shell and tucking in. This is not, we agree, a first date venue.

But if you’re comfortable tearing your dinner limb from limb, then you’ll love it. We’re still hungry after the platter for we go again. What is a “Krab BLT”? Well it’s precisely that. A bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich . . . with crab. Okaay so. But when it comes it’s weirdly lovely, white mayo drenched crab meat with a slice of perfectly crisp smoked bacon, folded leaves and tomato slices.

But the stars of the night are native oysters. There’s a happy hour here on the farmed oysters but it it doesn’t apply to the round wild native oysters. They take six years to grow, the waitress tells us, compared to the two years farmed oysters spend in the sea.

These used to be the everyman’s food, especially in Dublin where oysters were sold on street corners. Here they’re a posher option. A single large one is €4, the smaller ones €3.50. I go for one large and three smaller. I’d be hard pressed to identify the pricier one.

The farmed oysters taste of the sea but these natives are a more profound experience. Like any animal that has led a long wild life they have laid down layers of flavour over a lifetime like a tree laying down rings. It is a taste of a place, the Wild Atlantic Way in food form.

This is what works about Klaw. There are no frills, and very little space but in a world full of ordinary mouthfuls it’s the memorable and extraordinary ones that make a place great.

Dinner for two with a glass of wine and sparkling water came to €77.10