JOHN Macleod set up Crabshakk on Argyle Street in 2009, part of the first wave of new food and drink businesses that established Finnieston as a byword for modern Glasgow hospitality. An architect for the last 40 years, he saw the potential in the area and where he went, others followed. 

Now proposals have been lodged to create a Crabshakk restaurant on Vinicombe Street at the listed former Botanic Gardens Garage building. They would have Ka Pao as neighbours, already established at the renovated site. It’s all part of a strategy to rebuild the business with confidence after a year of disappointment and disruption. 

While planning is at an early stage, John admits he wants to have more of a presence in the West End. “Everyone has had to make their own plans on how they will come through this difficult stage” he says. 

READ MORE: Canotto Pizza: Cathcart staple brings mouthwatering pizza to Glasgow

“We’ve concluded that we will continue with what has been a successful brand over the years. We want to retain our staff and keep the business in good shape. We feel this is the right time to scale up a wee bit. For us, this is a good opportunity, and for me, a lifelong resident of the West End – the Botanics area in particular – I think it’s a terrific site. 

“I think it could become a lively spot with Ka Pao and some of the other businesses there already and then you have Cail Bruich around the corner making the headlines, so I feel like it would be the right time.”

The compact original unit at Argyle Street has been closed for most of the last year but John says it still has a busy future ahead of it. “Finnieston has been a great success story for eating and drinking in Glasgow and that has made a big difference to the area. I’m looking forward to seeing it alive again and back where it belongs. We will continue to be part of that.”

What was it that John saw in Argyle Street in the first place when he opened a seafood spot on a largely ignored stretch close to Kelvingrove Park? “It started with an idea, something I’d wanted to try for quite a long time. I knew some people who had property around there. There was an opportunity. From an architect’s point of view I thought it was strategically very well placed. It seemed like it could be at the centre of things but there was no focus. It felt like things could start to happen there, and it did.

“There were people there before me, The Ben Nevis was a great anchoring point. Then we came along as the start of the next generation, and Glasgow went for it.”

At the start of lockdown restrictions, at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty about the future direction of hospitality, John wrote to the Glasgow Lord Provost, suggesting a scheme to take eateries outside onto Argyle Street, covered by a greenhouse. 

He remains convinced that there should be more discussions in the city on harnessing the potential of shared public space. “In Finnieston, a lot of the operators have been hammered by this over the last year. I think there is some momentum to move on ideas again, for outdoor markets whether that has cover or no cover. 

“These are things for the council to consider. A lot of us are keen to have flexibility and freedom with licensing. People like being outside, the pandemic has shown that, and there’s all these areas in Glasgow that could be used more. You talk about the Dear Green Place but there’s nowhere to go. 

“I’d be supportive of any initiative to make better use of space, encouraging an outdoors trading climate and a different cultural climate relating to food and drink, with Glasgow joining many other cities in that regard.”

READ MORE: Cooking with Mrs Conetta: ‘We need to inspire our children to be passionate about food’

Crabshakk intends to return in May if restrictions allow. “We would strike up straight away with Finnieston and we’d also have a pop-up at Cathedral House Hotel. We had a couple of great weekends there and a fully booked restaurant leading up to Christmas before we were closed down again. It’s a lovely wee building with a great outdoor space.

"That will be the start of it and then we’ll see what is decided for Vinicombe Street for later on in the year."