Michael Deacon at Crabshakk in Glasgow
Tackling a smorgasbord of seafood in Glasgow
You see it quite often with rock stars. After months of cold, clenched, perspiring agony, they finally conquer their addiction to drugs – only to find they’ve unwittingly replaced it with an addict ion to something else. they’re now addicted to Red Bull, say, or to working out, or to dubious juice cleanses, or some arcane branch of mysticism. Whatever it is, it fixates them as crazedly as the drugs did; and although their bodies may be growing healthier, their minds are not. Because somewhere deep inside them gnaws a ceaseless neurotic want–a want that must always be fed, if not by one thing, then by another. And so the addict discovers he can kick coke or crack or pills or smack – but he can’t kick addiction. He needs to need.
A mildly disconcerting way to begin a restaurant column, i know. But, in my own minor, provincial and silly way, i’m beginning to fear that the above has happened tome. i’ve given up drink. And replaced it with puddings.
Honestly, it’s terrible. i decided to lay off the booze for a bit, in the expectation that i’d feel better and look slimmer. But my body, it turns out, had other ideas. Denied its regular source of sugar, it demanded another. until i stopped drinking, i hardly touched chocolate, couldn’ t stand pas tries, a nd felt sick at t he sight of a Krispy Kreme. now i’ve got the sweet tooth of a toddler at Christmas. i love doughnuts and Cronuts and cheesecakes and
cupcakes; sorbets and soufflés; macaroons, maca rons. Ever y la st one of them I could comfor tably have lived without while I was still on the G&TS; yet today, a single bite lights me up like a fruit machine.
Which is why, in restaurants, when the waiter sails over to present the wine list, I now shoot him the tolerant smile of the rigorously self-disciplined and say, ‘Not for me, thanks. Just sparkling water .’ Pause .‘ Plus three jam tarts, six toffee waffles and a kilo of Lyle’s.’
In a bid to wean myself off the junk, I went to Crab shakk, a seafood restaurant in Glasgow. Seafood: clean and fresh and teemingly nutritious. That would keep the sugar pangs at bay.
Crabshakk is a tightly packed little place, its walls decorated with blackand-white photos of craggy fishermen, or gleeful schoolboys showing off flatfish the size of door mats. Both the menu and the specials board are long and varied; together, they read like pretty much the entire cast list of Finding Dory.
In general, the starters were good. Lightly smoked salmon, meltingly delicate, on a bed of crushed peas; saltand-pepper gurnard and tentacles, chewily supple; and smørrebrød, a kind of Danish open sandwich, with pickled her ring, dill and rye bread. Even if you hadn’t known what it was called, you could have guessed that it was Scandinavian. There was something stern, brooding and weather-beaten about it. It made me want to pull on a 4in-thick jumper and solve murders in bad lighting.
Where I went wrong, I think, was in my choice of main. I ordered the whole brown crab, feeling that, since the thing was part of the restaurant’ s name, I’d probably better sample it. To be honest, though, I always find eating crab a bot her, and so perhaps didn’t look as grateful as I should have done when the waitress appeared and said, ‘Sorry, the crabs area wee bit small today – so they’ve given you two.’
It isn’t just the effort I mind. It’s the look of it. The battered old metal tools, one for cracking, one for scraping; as you set to work, the sounds of crunching and splintering; and the outcome, a help less chaotic massacre of legs and joints and innards. It makes me feel like some kind of medieval surgeon. And not an especially skilled one.
It takes so long, too. While everyone else is merrily polishing off their lemon-sole fill et or monk fish-cheek scampi, you’re still grimly excavating away. Worthwhile if you love the stuff, of course. Here, though, I wasn’t keen. To me it just tasted like cold cat food. (Or at least, how I imagine cold cat food to taste. I don’t eat cat food. Just wanted to make that clear.)
For balance, I should add that the crab cakes were good. That’s the way I like my crabmeat: not in a crab. The ‘wee supper’ was decent, too, although let’s face it, on a plate in a restaurant is a decidedly sub-optimal way to consume fish and chips. We all know it tastes better in a parked car, wrapped in paper, the same way that beer always tastes better from a tap than from a can. As far as I can remember, anyway.
I still ended up having dessert. Of course I did. It was affogato: basically, two scoops of ice cream with a cup of coffee tipped over the top. I must admit, I rarely have coffee, because it makes me go a bit… emotional. This one made my ner ves feel like a bunch of keys in a tumble dryer.
It’s a nice place, Crabshakk, but one t hing I have to say against it is t hat it took a long, long time to get the bill and pay. In fact, the meal itself was pretty stretched out. Two hours and 25 minutes is a lot, for lunch. Especially when you’ve got a small bored child who’s starting to act up. That was a pain.
Or maybe I was just being g rumpy because I hadn’t had enough sugar.
I’ve got the sweet tooth of a toddler at Christmas. I love doughnuts and Cronuts and cupcakes; sorbets and soufflés
Above Crab cakes at Crabshakk. Opposite A whole crab. ‘Sorry, they’re a wee bit small today,’ the waitress told Michael Deacon, ‘so we’ve given you two’