Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday Night Stragglers

We were all out to see C tonight at a Veludo's in St Kilda. I arrived too late to witness the set as I was coming in from work, but we hung around and downed some drinks while listening to the artist he was opening for.

We walked out into the pleasant Sunday night on Acland Street and were deciding where to go next.

Karen suggested Claypots, a seafood restaurant. There was the slightest of hesitations amongst the six guys there, as the conservative China man in all of us went "Really ah? Another expensive dinner ah?"

We trudged to the restaurant, and C and a few others peeled off to put their instruments away. M and Karen and I went ahead of them into Claypots.

Claypots was an interesting restaurant made up of two shophouses - one shop housed the restaurant proper while the other was a bar/waiting area with cushioned benches lining two sides of the room.

I was surprised as my door was opened for me, but even more surprised when I saw the man holding a clarinet. A drum was set up in the small space next to him, and a piano abutted the bar.

We were told that there would be a twenty minute wait because there were seven of us, and so we sat in the waiting area. Secretly, I was quite hungry and a little impatient.

I sat down next to Karen, and then the magic happened.

The Magicians

Allow me to describe the magicians. The clarinetist had matted grey hair, with a Charlie Chaplinesque moustache and was almost as slim as the instrument he held in his hand. The drummer looked like a wise old principal - his half-moon glasses dangling precariously over his doting grandfatherly face. The pianist and main singer was a lady with a smoky voice who reminded me of a female Rod Stewart. Only more talented.

They all looked in their sixties or seventies and we thought they had nothing to say to us. Boy, were we proven wrong.

They were such a tight three piece band - the clarinetist seemed to have the lungs of an Olympic swimmer as his fingers danced along his instrument, sounding out celestial notes; the drummer hit his snare, top hat and cowbell with the assurance and fluency that bordered on arrogance, and the combined dexterity of the pianist's finger and her distinctive husky voice stirred something in our souls that night.

The rest of the gang finally joined us and we all sat on the benches, tapping our feet and slapping our thighs to the blues/swing music that was permeating the bar. The magicians then each took their turn to wow us with their tricks - they all broke into individual solos in the middle of their songs. The drummer in particular was jaw-droppingly impressive. Each confident strike against the many clangs and crashes of his drum set resonated something almost primal in us - their captive audience that night.

We were so mesmerised that when our waiter came to told us our table was ready, we remained glued to our benches, waiting for the music to finish.

The Good, The Better And The Ugly

We reluctantly left the waiting area into the restaurant, and can we just say - the food was mind-blowing as well. We had a choice wine with our fusion-style seafood - the chilli crab was really delicious and the shell  surprisingly soft, the laksa-styled Malay seafood claypot was good to the last drop and the walnut-crusted duckfish was the ugliest, largest, most satisfying (I'm running out of superlatives here) fish I've eaten in a while.

Chilli crab and mussels.
And expectant hungry boy. 
Big Fish. Small Fist.

Here's how much he loved the fish.

The Aftermath.

J summarised it best when he said 'This meal is going to haunt me for the rest of the week.' 

Punctuate that with a fine wine and company that were not beyond making grotesque fish-eyeball related jokes and you had the ingredients for a memorable night. 

We walked away from the restaurant, contented and buzzing from dinner. We walked past the waiting room, now filled with after-dinner guests, for one last hurrah from the jazz band, of course:  

Here's to the Sunday night stragglers. What a night it was!

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