Le Serre Nuove – Thoughts from Glasshouses

Food Stories and Recollections

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Crustaceans and Crabshakk

Is there anything more delectable that lobster? My mind was cast by the story of  3.4 KG lobster that was caught in the Forth, (http://news.scotsman.com/scotland/Now-that39s-pot-luck.6584570.jp) and auctioned at my local fishmongers, Armstrong’s in Stockbridge, recently. In my haste, I completely forgot to go down and check it out, maybe even bid, but I was through in Glasgow on the Friday and lobster cravings gave way to thinking of the tiny chaos of Crabshakk.

It’s been open for nearly two years and received quite a lot of press attention last year for its stripped back approach to shellfish. I first ventured there for lunch about a year ago, and I was intrigued to see how it had changed. There is no doubt there will be things that won’t be for everybody: it is incredibly crammed (if you get a table by the fire it’s about half the size of single school desk), and the menu is not extensive (although you can get a steak – or fish suppers if you don’t like shellfish), but its creates the sort of buzz and hustle and bustle that is more Bleecker Street than Argyle Street.

Whenever my dad would take me to the pub growing up I always wanted a bag of Scampi Fries. I had no idea what they were, but they were incredibly tangy in flavour, and moreish. They smelled fishy, but I didn’t taste like it and the were way better than cheese and onion crisps. I had soon moved on to the breaded variety at the chippie, as I hated soggy fried fish (still do), and still didn’t know what ‘Scampi’ was and only knew it by association. Dublin prawns was what my dad would call them (always forgetting the bay part), but I never had a real Langoustines until I moved to Scotland. The dramatic rise in their popularity (from revenues of about £68m in 2002 to £200m this year), due in part to their the supposed stock levels and the environmental impact of overfishing, has seen them become almost ubiquitous in menus.

I lost count of the amount they served me (12 I believe). They were all perfectly cooked, lightly grilled and coated in garlic butter. Even in Paris, it is supposedly acceptable that you use your hands to take the meat out of the shell, and use the finger bowl, and it is certainly the way you are expected to do it here. It’s just impossible not to get shells everywhere. I know people who like to suck the brains out like crayfish, and I doubt it would be frowned upon, but that’s not something for me. I really don’t like the mess. It goes with the territory, and if you do order these things you should tolerate it. But that can be forgiven. I think I could still be there given how succulent they were. The crab cakes too, were small perfectly formed, no potato filler, just white crab meat and tender and delicate. I probably soured the event by washing it all down with Italian lager; it didn’t add anything, and is just quite boring. Sides too were pointless, unless you needed a carb fix.

The freshness and quality of the produce used is second to none; Crabshakk lets them speak for themselves with the minimum of fuss. By and large they had maintained the standards that they had set last year. Crabshakk may be awkward and cramped, and can feel like a roadside diner (no doubt it is the point), but it is certainly worth it.

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