Having already been to Scotch Wine Bar in Blenheim, I had high hopes entering K' Road venue Clay — co-owner Dan Gillett is also the brains behind the renowned Marlborough restaurant, bar and wine shop. Dan's knowledge is vast and his passion for natural wine — drops that have either minimal or no interventions or additives — is evident at Clay. They offer 200 natural wines either to drink in situ or take away. The wines by the glass change daily based on the weather, what's on offer from the kitchen or whatever takes Dan's fancy that day.
While wine is the hero of this new venture, the food menu, while small, is impressive. The selection of small and large plates are designed to be shared, and at least half of the menu is either already gluten-free or capable of being tweaked to accommodate.
Dining alone, I ordered three small plates and a glass of French grenache. There are New Zealand wine choices aplenty, but the rarity of finding great European wine by the glass coloured my decision. To eat, I ordered the choy sum — a flavourful smoky dish featuring the leafy vegetable in a light yet creamy sauce — plus the chicken heart skewer, which was cooked to perfection. The hero for me was the oyster mushrooms — robust and salty with incredible depth of flavour. The small dishes are small — as advertised — but appropriately priced and satisfying.
I spied a couple of other diners enjoying the pizzas, and not for the first time cursed my gluten intolerance as the bases that looked doughy yet light and crisp.
The 366 K' Road space has come a long way from its former incarnation as a mobile phone shop. The floor now features bright mosaic tiling, one wall comes lined with wine refrigerators, and a long wooden table takes up the majority of the space. It's simple and has been designed to encourage relaxed family-style eating and imbibing.
A fellow wine industry friend quipped that Clay is not somewhere to go unless you know your pét-nat from your pinot gris, but I'm going to disagree. Clay is a place for anyone who would like to experience something new and elevate their wine experience and maybe expand their knowledge if that's your thing. If not, then it's just a good place to enjoy great wine and something to eat without saying a word.