GIN and “wellness” might seem like a contradiction in terms “but it works”, says Andrew Craig, the new owner of a Glasgow business themed around a spirit that is now predominantly made in Scotland.

Mr Craig and his wife Alex took over TDQ last year, which incorporates Gin 71, a day spa and Cup tea rooms, based on Renfield Street and Virginia Court –  a “hidden gem” in the Merchant City.

By their own admission, the 10 -year-old business was already successful, notching up a steady stream of awards.

During the first lockdown, when hospitality ground to a halt, thousands of boxed afternoon teas were delivered on Mother’s Day by staff, helping keep the company afloat.

The new owners now have ambitious plans to expand the brand across the UK, with new venues in Edinburgh and Leeds. They have also invested around a quarter of a million pounds in refurbishments, including expanding the spa, which will triple capacity.

The Paisley-born businessman returned to Scotland in 2020 after a 10-year spell in London, where he met his Romanian-born wife.

His main business is property construction, but the couple sold the health clinics they owned and settled in Skermorlie, near Largs, with their four-year-old daughter.

“We’ve never really been in hospitality before,” said Mr Craig.

“We both like to enjoy hospitality and we came along to Gin 71 [in Virginia Court] because my brother had recommended it.

“Coincidentally, two or three weeks later an agent I was asking to look for potential businesses had said, ‘what about hospitality?’

“We had just come out of Covid and my investment team were saying don’t touch hospitality.

“But to be fair, that’s normally the time to look at risk because that’s when you get the opportunities,” he says.

“The previous owner had built up a really solid brand with a great team.”

The couple have taken on a new pastry chef, who previously worked at Crossbasket Castle Hotel under Michel Roux Jr, to prepare a new afternoon tea menu.

“We were number one on Trip Advisor for afternoon tea in Glasgow and I think we are now number two,” said Mr Craig.

“It’s a very mixed demographic – you have teenagers right up to 80-year-old grandmothers.”

The spa expansion will add nine extra treatment rooms and each will be sponsored by a particular Scottish gin.

All treatments offer a complimentary tipple, but the brochure makes clear that they don’t recommend alcohol after a massage and non-alcoholic gins are available. 

“Obviously there’s a slightly controversial element having a wellness product with gin but it works really well,” said Mr Craig.

“People will come along and have a relaxing treatment and afternoon tea. We could fill those extra nine treatments rooms now.”

The couple have invested close to £500,000 on the two sites, including a new outdoor bar and gin lounge, and are bringing in a new head chef to explore a new Scottish-themed menu.

They also have plans for another Gin 71/Cup venue in Edinburgh and a different hospitality venture in Glasgow, as well as a Speakeasy-style bar under the Renfield Street tearoom.

“Our plan is for a 1930s-style cocktail lounge that will be quite ‘cloak and dagger’” said the owner.

There are challenges, he says, including energy bill rises and the re-introduction of rates – which only applies in Scotland – is putting businesses under enormous pressure.

He added: “Our energy costs have trebled. For some businesses, it’s just not sustainable.

“From a Scottish Government perspective, the fact that we are having to pay full rates again, whereas in England you don’t -– it’s a bit of hit on businesses.

“We’ve got some stuff down in Leeds and there are so much more concessions. I think they could do more to help.”