Design Focus: Chaakoo


61 Ruthven Lane, Glasgow G12 9BG

The line ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?’ from the song Mrs Robinson must be one of Simon and Garfunkel’s most recognisble lyrics and it’s not only the singing duo that is missing him. The former Di Maggio’s on Glasgow’s Ruthven Lane is also now minus him, plus his former wife Marilyn Monroe, following its transformation into Chaakoo West End. Hanging on the walls in the Ruthven Lane cafe where they used to be are now pictures of Gandhi, and other retro Bombay artefacts and pictures in this homage to a Bombay Cafe.

That’s because owners Topolabamba Group decided to move its Chaakoo concept west from the city where the original, on St. Vincent Street, continues to pack them in.

Involved in the design were McCabe Decorators, and Ian Graham Upholstery, with kitchen equipment by Catering World. Its seafood suppliers are Corrigan’s and Scotch Frost, while Custom Chemicals provide the bar’s cleaning products.

Said Paul Sloan, of the Topolabamba Group, is aware that this location is a little bit of a departure but he’s confident nevertheless that the concept will find its feet in this location. He said, “The challenge is going to be getting the message out there that we are in what might be deemed an out-of-the-way location. There’s nothing between The
Bothy and Chaakoo, for example, so it might take a little longer for the Chaakoo brand to bed in compared to the take-up in the city centre.”

He continued, “We’re confident that the brand is strong enough to do it. We’ve re-upgraded part of Ruthven Lane with new lighting – plus we fixed the mono-blocks so no more puddles.”

Liam Shellcock is on the management team at Chaakoo West End and he showed me around on a late-morning visit as they were knocking the place into shape before opening, but which part of the design is clocking up the most amount of mentions from customers? Liam told me, “The new design has also become a real talking point with customers. They love all the artwork on the walls and the ‘Second Class’ and ‘Cattle Class’ signs on the booths (there’s no first-class!). They’re also generally really taken with all the blackboards and the overall sense of fun the design incorporates.”

He continued, “Customers love how vibrant the space is and the fact that this space is so versatile – for example, Chaakoo daytime is completely different in the daytime to how it is in the evening when we lower the lights and turn up the music.”

I was a regular in Di Maggio’s West End and you couldn’t see the wall for pictures of Marilyn, plus the interior design used to be monochrome. Now, you can see the walls, which are painted in a kind of pistachio colour, because the pictures are arranged in airier clusters in among wall-lights.

The first thing I noticed, however, is that the big roaring fire embedded in the pillar and which confronted you at the top of the stairs as you enter has gone, but the layout is pretty much unaltered. Once you are up the stairs, which, say ‘No tripping upstairs! All our Chai Tea is coming strictly without opium,” a precursor of the humour to come upstairs, there’s the servery to the right, in front of which sit a row of deep-red leather booths. Hanging above them are pendant lights with classic white shades.

Look to the left and it’s the main expanse of seating, dark wood chairs and tables, and more booths. This all sits on top of a polished wooden floor throughout and then this gives way through a squared-off archway to an extra seating area, with more of the same furniture, flooring, quirky pictures and lighting. The toilets are accessed via a central downward staircase that’s camouflaged with plants and blackboards, one of which talks about what is and what isn’t acceptable toilet behaviour.

There are many other tongue in cheek signs and slogans too, if you take the time to look – and this is a many-detailed interior design.

I also like the mirrors dotted around the place and the white brick walls and other quirky little touches like the wall-mounted pendulum clock. The ceiling is fairly low and has a covering on it in white with a subtle gold monochrome pattern.

DiMaggio’s West End may have occupied a special place in the hearts of Glaswegians and perhaps still casts rather a long shadow, but Chaakoo is bright, bold and different enough to step out of it and


Category: Editors' Picks, News


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