Vinicombe Street in Glasgow’s West End is having a moment. While the adjacent block of Byres Road was once filled with independent restaurants (I still miss Heart Buchanan), it’s this offshoot of the bustling thoroughfare that’s grabbing the attention once reserved for Ashton Lane or Ruthven Lane.
In early 2020, Ka Pao, a sister restaurant to the hugely popular Ox and Finch, opened and has since been featured in the 2022 Michelin Guide.
Nearby is the modest but charming 1841 cafe, while The Parlor is popular with cocktail lovers and is a sun trap on hot days, meaning it’s a great spot for summer drinks.
The latest addition to the lovely old Botanics Garage (where Ka Pao is located) is Crabshakk’s second location.
For those not in the know, the original Crabshakk was one of Finnieston’s first must-visit restaurants, before the Strip became one of the trendiest and most popular places to congregate in the West End.
Created by architect John Macleod in 2009, Finnieston Restaurant has become a mainstay of the city’s dining scene and is booked weeks in advance on weekends thanks to its fresh seafood menu and space comfortable.
The decision to open a second restaurant came about due to Covid restrictions and a plan to potentially close the original – given its tiny proportions which made social distancing impossible.
Fortunately, the love of Glasgow residents kept the original Crabshakk alive, but plans to open a second location continued anyway, with the location chosen because of its iconic building which appealed to John .
After a complete renovation of the space, the restaurant opened in late April and has already hosted a few famous faces (Sam Heughan of Outlander fame was pictured enjoying a meal a few weeks ago).
Went to the soft launch on a busy and busy Tuesday night. Crabshakk Botanics felt like a sleek New York bar/restaurant with lots of steel, exposed brick, and a mix of high stools and banquettes.
We were seated at the bar and started our evening with a few cocktails. One of the main differences of this Crabshakk – size aside – is the extensive drink offering which includes an extensive wine list and creative cocktails.
When we spoke to manager Lily Brown in February, she explained that Crabshakk Botanics would be a “space where people can come and enjoy a nice bottle of wine or cocktails and end up staying a while and getting oysters or something from the new evening snacks offer.’
The food menu is almost as extensive as the wine list, with snacks, specialties, and seafood listed in sections including oysters, calamari, scallops, and langoustines.
As we roamed, we snacked on some punch pickled vegetables (£6) and deliciously more boquerone anchovies (£4).
This was quickly followed by three oysters on ice (£8.50). Fleshy and extremely fresh, the oysters were sprinkled with a traditional shallot reseda.
Having heard so much about Crabshakk seared scallops (£11.95)it seemed rude not to try them.
Served sizzling on a hot cast iron skillet, we opted for them to be seasoned with anchovies, butter and sage, which gave the sweet scallop meat a deep umami flavor.
Tip, get some bread to dip in this sauce because you won’t want him to stop eating it.
Having skipped lunch so we could, let’s face it, completely eat seafood, we were more than happy at this point to tuck into the main courses of langoustines with monkfish cheek (£16.95) served with skinny fries, house salad and ketchup and a special dish of roast hake (£24.95).
The langoustines were a far cry from the traditional pub fayre. Each bouncy piece of fish was coated in a light crispy batter and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.
The fries were crispy and well salted and reminded me of McDonald’s high fries. The side salad was fresh and gave this dish a nice pop of color, as did the saffron-tinged tomato ketchup.
My hake was delicate and flaky – the butter sauce punctuated with peas, sweet silvery onions and small pieces of salted pancetta.
Finally the dessert, whose options range from affogato to sorbet, passing by parfait and chocolate cake. But it was the pineapple and rum upside-down cake served with coconut ice cream (£7) which caught my attention.
This brick-shaped slice of cake had a sticky pineapple ripple on top that complemented the soft rum sponge. A shower of bright lime zest added bite to the cake and the creamy, sweet ice cream.
Leaving, the effervescence of the place remains and it is clear that the team really enjoys embarking on this new project.
While Crabshakk Botanics is the new kid on the block, what made the first Crabshakk stand the test of time can be found here too – quality food, well cooked and served with a smile – making it easy to imagine that ‘it will soon be as great a Glasgow Institution as the original.