“Rock me mama like a wagon wheel – this seafood is wonderful”. Ron Mackenna’s verdict on Crabshakk Botanics


THE LATE SUMMER light bounces off Vinicombe Street, refracting through that smoked glass front, catching expensive piano blacks, stark whites and mirrored walls while Bob Dylan‘s so rock me mama like a wagon wheel, rock me mamma murmurs from the walls.

Waves of flash-cooking seafood waft almost in tune from the semi-open kitchen bathing me (the crumpled guy at that terrible table out on the floor) in savoury sensations while I fork up Pineapple and Rum Upside Down Cake.

Peering intently at the micro green shavings on top, stopping a waitress and asking: what is this? Getting the answer: that’s shaved lime (stoopid) but you’re probably tasting the pink peppercorn in the dessert.

What the… pink peppercorns bejaysus, yes, and ice-cream and cake. And all of this at the close of a meal that began with a bowl of Barra Cockles.

A seafood that can make plump men very nervous (this one anyway), but transpires to be deftly steamed, lightly tangy, floating sea-fresh from their shells as I pluck them one by one with a fork sending the emptied ones clacking atmospherically off to the side: chorizo chunks too, baby samphire, and all amid a light broth.

Then a mackerel fillet arrives. The skin seared to crisp, popping, eat-me seductiveness, the meat itself literally, actually, juicy.

Rock me mamma like a south bound train. Black olive tapenade and heritage (aka with flavour) tomatoes and basil on that plate.

And I finish it all. Damn. I wandered in here slap bang on the 5pm of a Wednesday evening dot expecting to catch them cold with a tepid kitchen, chefs slumbering in the afternoon lull and a dead-as-a-dodo atmosphere.

But they were waiting at the door. Piloting me straight to this awkward table: slap, bang in the middle of restaurant no-mans-land, at the cross-roads of the kitchen entrance, beneath that long low bar; the culinary equivalent of the naughty step.

It’s making me wonder. Did I do something to the Crabshakk in one of its of previous lives? Hmm, there were those pretty unkind comments about that whole Brown Crab when it was up in the Cathedral House during their wandering in the wilderness pop-up period.

Anyway, and this surprises me considering the time, I’m only alone in the dining room for moments before a stream of prosperous-looking customers start to flow in from the West End. Filling this long, low place. And I am counting 30 covers and rising. Before 6pm.

Anyway, I recommend the hake, said the waitress when I sat down and scanned the specials menu, and I thought – yeah you would: it’s £27. And weirdly comes with Crabshakk Paella.

But actually…it’s while enjoying that hake that I realise why the Crabshakk is turning out hit after hit this evening. The fish has been boldly seasoned while cooking, in fact every piece of seafood has been tonight, amazing how many places still don’t do this, bringing out the creamy freshness of the flavours.

And that paella? Honestly, I can’t recall the last time I ate a paella, if ever, is infused with the sticky, sweetness of pan-melted peppers, hits of saffron, fresh peas, proper rice; a dish that could stand all on its own, but crowned with that hake is really something of a show-stopper.

Now, I ordered the Fish and Chips, the wee supper it’s called actually, at £8.95 and kinda thought they’ve messed up here as it arrived and I looked at its thick-seemingbatter and dangerously commercial looking shapelessness.

But … the batter is way thicker than I like, or ever associate with deft cooking, but it is cooked through, the unspecified white fish inside steaming fresh and the whole thing at £8.95 plus chips pitched at an entry level seafood price point.

The Crabshakk then. Rocked me mama like the wind and the rain? Kind of. Grown up certainly in its swish new home.

 

Crabshakk Botanics

18 Vinicombe Street

Glasgow

0141 286 4508 

 

Menu: Seafood Jim, but not just cockles and mussels, steaks of hake and halibut, properly sourced, interestingly prepared. 4  

 

Atmosphere: This is a new home for the Crabshakk with stark whites, piano blacks,  lots of leather and a long low very sophisticated feel. Even in the early evening. 5

 

Price: It’s seafood. In Scotland. It’s never going to be cheap. Small plates: Mackerel £8.50, Cockles £10.50, Hake £27, but served with panache and style. 4 

 

Service:  Relaxed, friendly and not just efficient but clearly clued up on what’s being served. 5

 

Food: Very fresh, lightly handled, appetisingly prepared and skillfully seasoned: that hake on paella was outstanding, the cockles memorable. 8 

 

26/30





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