By Michael Boyle
Service (bar): 4/5
Service (restaurant): 10/5
Bar menu: 5/5
Restaurant menu: 4/5
Claw can be easily overlooked as another tiny restaurant tucked into a small corner of Souq Al Bahar. Its unassuming exterior boasts nothing but a small sign showing its emblem. But the interior will catch you off guard and you'll instantly realise why this hard-to-find bar and grill is fully booked and packed to the rafters almost every night.
As we step inside we're greeted by 3 lovely hostesses decked out in those cute baby blue dresses you always see in American roadside diner scenes in movies. If you have a booking, they'll whisk you off to your table. If not, they'll try to find you one. Rest assured that you'll be served with the brightest smiles this side of Hollywood.
So now we're in. We're sat down at our table with menus and we get the chance to take in the surroundings. Claw is taken straight from a corner bar in any typically American town. Pennants from college football teams, a random assortment of posters for various beers and liquors, bare brick walls, empty engine oil drums for light shades and a whole bunch of funny signs and slogans saying things such as "BEER!! Because your friends just aren't that interesting!". The atmosphere in Claw feels right. It doesn't feel like you're in a conservative Islamic country. It feels like you're in good old 'Merica.
The food menu in Claw is something pretty special for carnivores like myself. There are several different species of fresh crab, lobster, prawns and fish available. There's also a pretty extensive selection of steaks and chicken dishes and, for the really adventurous, alligator meat. I order the jalapeño bacon burger and it's in front of me in 10 minutes. Round of applause for the kitchen staff.
Everything comes in the sort of portion sizes America is famous for. The burger is the size of my head and weighs about 350 grams. It comes with a mountain of fries too, not for the faint of heart or the weak-stomached. It tastes good. The jalapeños are just right, not too hot and not laughably weak, the burger is cooked just how I asked – medium rare and the bacon is nice and crispy. I manage to eat most of it, but I've got to save room for the bar, so I call it a night and get my cheque, making sure I leave a large tip for one of the best waitresses that's ever served me.
The bar in Claw is a thing of beauty. The drinks menu is among the most extensive I've encountered since I came to Dubai. There's a great selection of imported beers, almost every liquor you can think of and a great selection of different rums. There are dozens of weird and wonderful cocktails, some of the classics and some special recipes invented by the bar staff. They also have a pretty special concept where the customer can fill out a form and design his or her very own daiquiri. I'm not a fan of daiquiris so I've never tried it, but apparently there are over 100 combinations to choose from. Highly recommended for the cocktail connoisseur. I order my usual bottle of Heineken and watch the goings on, keeping one eye on the bartenders and the time it takes them to serve customers and the other eye on one of the many big screens, each showing different sports matches from around the world using their Slingbox system.
Service at the bar is great when there's hardly anyone there, but as soon as it starts to get busy I find myself waiting 10 minutes for a fresh beer. I forgive them though because they're clearly understaffed. The bartenders, when they do eventually get round to serving me, are all super friendly, get my beer quickly and always find time to ask how I'm doing. I overheard one bartender's conversation with a guy standing to my right, advising him on which cocktail to order. He gave the guy a few suggestions based on what liquor and mixers etc. that he liked, and proceeded to make him a cocktail that the customer really enjoyed. If all bartenders were this good, we'd be living in a world populated by alcoholics. Thank The Lord for shitty bartenders.
A few beers later and it's time to go. The hostesses at the door say bye with those amazing smiles and I'm off on my way. I rank Claw among the best bars in Dubai and I'll definitely be back. The service, the food, the drinks and the atmosphere take a lot to beat, and it's obvious that the owners put a great deal of effort into making Claw the sort of establishment that people will come back to time and time again.
Final rating: 4.5/5. It would be a 5 and more if the bar wasn't understaffed.