Dinner amongst friends.

There are some restaurants that you want to go to because the food is supposed to be amazing, there are others that are run by friends and you want to support them.  And then there is Crabshakk in Glasgow that is both!!  I really had to go here when we were in Glasgow to watch the Gymnsatics World Championships as a lover of all things fishy, as are my wife and son.  This had to be booked as it's reputation for its quirky style, relaxed atmosphere and deft of touch when it comes to handling the fantastic Scottish seafood preceeded it.  The other just as important reason was to catch up with 2 old friends from earlier in my career. 

The story started back in April 1997 when I moved to the East Neuk village of Anstruther to gain some experience in an award winning and well loved seafood restaurant called The Cellar.  The Cellar was run by what can only be described as a legendary personality and patron within the Industry, Peter Jukes.  I was only meant to stay for 6 months to gain some experience, but 6 1/2 years later I left as the head chef having forged my own career and style under his tutorage and guideance alongside his wife Susan and Family I had made friendships that would last a lifetime.  Of those were 2 young, energetic young men.  The first, Peter's son Thomas used to wash our pots at the weekends and through the holidays and really was a credit to his parents.  Even if ever so slightly keen on partying and clubbing!!  Many a hangover was banished by washing the lobster bisque pot and he'd be the first in line to go out and party all over again.  The second, a young, skinny, bleached blonde, new punk loving lad from St Monans, fresh from college and eager to learn, for all his tom foolery and clown like persona he really was a damn good chef.  So that is how I met Tom Jukes and David "Scotty" Scott.

Little did I know that all these years later their paths would cross in one of the best restaurants in Glasgow and that I would then be having the pleasure of dining there with my own family. 

Our paths had crossed a couple of years earlier.  As great as it was to see them in our old stompping grounds of The Cellar that grey dreich January day, is was under circumstances none of us would have ever wanted.  Funerals are strange things at the best of times, but when it is of the untimely death of the person that shaped your career it is even harder.  A tremendously sad day with many dark clouds was gilt edged as it provided an opportunity for so many old aquantances to meet up once more, rekindle those friendships.  That day those two young boys of men that I had so fondly remembered from all those years previous had now become men, but thankfully with their original DNA still intact.  They were just like good wine, still with the character they had graced when just picked from the vine, but had matured into something that bit classier and more sophisticated.  How Tom managed to conduct himself that day was a real credit to Peter and he would have been proud as he now became the man of the family to look after his sisters.  Out of darkness comes new beginings and as sad as that day was I will always cherish it as a fantastic celebration of life, as the picture shows.

Cheers PJ

Queenies and lobster butter. Sizzling!!

Joss and George ready for a seafood extravaganza.

It was sods law that both Tom and David were not working the night that we were booked in, but we had arranged an early table and were meeting up with them later in the evening.  On arrival we were greeted with 2 glasses of fizz, and very nice it was too.  A little welcome from old friends.

The next problem was what to eat?  So much of the menu and specials all looked delicious, so really there was only one thing for it, just order loads and let battle commence.  George decided to have fish and chips, as most 8 year olds would when presented with such choices on a menu with scallops, langoustines, oysters, crab, mussels, halibut, seabass to name but a few of the amazing choices along with the now legendary "Spoots" I'll let you guys work out for yourselves what these are.  But no, its not that this was all he liked off the menu, quite the opposite, he would have eaten all of the above, but he is very partial to good fish and chips, and good it was.  He did of course sample his mum and dads food as well as it would have been rude not to.

So it was down to Joss and I to order, for the life of me I can't remember if Joss had a starter as there were so many dishes we ate that evening and not all ones that we ordered.  But I think she had queenies with lobster butter, hot sizzling, garlicy, ozone fueled goodness.  Simplicity at its best.  I started with tempura oyster with Asian slaw.  The juxtaposition of warm velvety oyster, subtle spicing and crunchy tangy slaw was sublime.  George of course did as any self respecting 8 year old seafood lover would and woolfed down a healthy portion of our starters as well.  Not to be missed out was the really good sourdough which came in very handy for the lobster butter.  Oh, the extra dishes started to arrive, first came some complimentary crab cakes, beautiful sweet, lightly spiced, they did not last long!!

For mains Joss can never resist Moules Mariniere, and to be honest when the mussels are as fresh as this, with bread and chips on the table, a glass of crisp New Zealand Sauvignon, why wouldn't you.  She had turned up her nose at the Albarino, of which I was now quaffing.  I went for Langoustines, simply split and roasted with garlic butter.  Memories of the Cellar were definately comeing back and it's no surprise That David had taken these classics that we both used to do and resurface them within the trendy enclave of Finneston.  Yet another dish compliments of the house was winging our way, this wime some seared scallops, plump, sweet, caramelised, salty.  Really what more could you want.

At this point our bellies were about ready for bursting.  Joss at this point, being a Lady and all that passed on dessert and decided on another glass of prosecco.  And really, why not we were having a great evening.  George as ever had eyed up the chocolate cake on the menu at the begining of the evening and had left just enough room stuff his little cake hole full of its Valrhona goodness.  Not a crumb left on the plate.  I on the otherhand could not resist the combination of good coffee and vanilla icecream and went for Affogato.  Hot, cold, sweet, bitter, rich, refreshing.  Oh, and of course just the right amount of high quality caffiene to get me through the next part of the evening which I knew would probably get messy.

What more can I say about Crabshakk other than that it is truly brilliant.  It's classy without being stuffy.  The food is presented perfectly without being placed on a plate with bloody tweasers and a microscope and as for the flavours, they speak for themselves.  Honest, true, tantolising and just really really tasty.  PJ, you would be so proud, I know I was.

And as suspected the night did go on for a little bit later than expected as we all trooped out of the bar next door, Back to the Hilton, Joss and George off to bed and a couple of hours to reminice and catch up with old friends meant my head was very fuzzy the next day.  And of course celebrate with the American Womans Gymnastics team whom had just won Gold at the world championships and arrived back at the hotel to celebrate.  It was a double celebration that night as the overriding winner in my books was Tom, David and the team at Crabshakk, World Champion Seafood Gymnasts.

Nothing better than "Dinner amongst Friends"

I know I'm biased, but it really is 10/10

Crabshakk, 1114 Argyle Street, Finneston, Glasgow, G3 8TD




Thanks for reading

Stuart Brown