When asked which of many famous faces that have dined at his Glasgow restaurants over the years has caused the most excitement, James Rusk of the Rusk & Rusk Group barely misses a beat in his response.

“All of our customers are equally as important,” he shoots back with a warm chuckle, “it simply wouldn’t be right to choose”.

From any other restaurateur this reply might seem insincere, but with a new venue set to open in Edinburgh next week, Rusk’s passion for creating the perfect dining experience, no matter who’s at the table, is clear to see.  

(Although, he does later joke that serving Jack Nicholson a plate of steak frites during his years working stateside might planted the seed for the hugely popular Butchershop and Spanish Butcher businesses.)

The Herald: Pictured: James Rusk, co-founder of the Rusk & Rusk restaurant groupPictured: James Rusk, co-founder of the Rusk & Rusk restaurant group (Image: Supplied)

He says: “I went to art school and tried to be a rockstar, but the only thing that anyone’s ever paid me to do is work in restaurants.

“I had always done that, while at school and all through university and then I moved to New York.

“I was very lucky to work at Balthazar with Keith McNally, and that really sparked my interest in the whole idea of treating a restaurant like the theatre.

“From then on hospitality was a way to bring together all the elements of life that I loved from design to music and building and managing teams.”

It’s now been 14 years since Rusk launched his first venture alongside his wife and business partner, Louise, combining a wealth of industry experience and their shared vision for a steakhouse unlike any other in Glasgow.

These days discerning foodies from the city and beyond are well acquainted with the plush, Manhattan-inspired aesthetic at The Butchershop Bar & Grill, all mood lighting, dark leather and chunky wooden tables.

But Rusk remembers a time when many called them ‘insane’ to take on the West End unit.

“Louise and I had many doors closed in our faces when going through the journey of finding our first site.

“People would ask us: ‘What have you done before?’ and the answer was: ‘Well…nothing yet’.

“Then was: ‘OK, how are you going to pay for it?’ and :‘We’re working on that so you’ll have to trust us’.

“We were very fortunate that someone did eventually take a chance on us.

“We took our time with it because we knew this was our chance to make our mark, and in doing that we could work out exactly what we wanted and really better ourselves in the process.”

The duo had instantly seen the potential of the site with views of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, even before the nearby Finnieston neighbourhood had regenerated into a hub of trendy cocktail bars and tasting menus.

Rusk continues: “At first I don’t think they knew what to expect from a place called ‘The Butchershop.

“Our aim was always to shine a light on the whole idea of New York style and service.

“Big cuts of beef, big glasses of red wine and a cosy, welcoming space with cool music playing.

“It’s a fun, energized and no-holds-barred place where you came in knowing exactly what you were going to get.

“We have incredible chefs, fantastic produce and staff that are always on point.

"The real magic comes in when you bring all of that together.”

After The Butcher Shop came The Spanish Butcher in 2016, with the independent Rusk & Rusk restaurant group setting their sights firmly on the city centre.

Never ones to shy away from a challenge, they chose a location in need of even more love than the last, taking the Miller Street spot ‘back to the dirt’ before putting their keen design skills into practice once more.

The sister restaurant certainly shares similarities to The Butchershop in its loft-style look, but it’s a menu inspired by the lush Galicia region of Spain that sets the two apart.

The Herald: Pictured: The Spanish Butcher's Galician Prime RibPictured: The Spanish Butcher's Galician Prime Rib (Image: Supplied)

“The Spanish Butcher came about when we tried Galician Beef which comes from ex-dairy cows,” Rusk says.

“Towards the end of their lives when they're done with their dairy duties they’re put out to pasture and sort of free to roam until they’re around eight to 12 years old.

“It brings a different flavour profile which will vary depending on the age of the beef and has a much deeper, red colour when it's cooked.

“We balance that out on our menu with some of the finest beef in the world which comes from Scotland.

“Being able to showcase them both in a unique environment is a joyous thing, and hopefully we can bring that to our new site in Edinburgh.”

The Herald: Pictured: Loft style interiors at The Spanish ButcherPictured: Loft style interiors at The Spanish Butcher (Image: Supplied)

Of the decision to open their first location in the capital, Rusk says simply that it felt like a ‘natural’ progression before going on to note how fortunate he is to now work in two Scottish cities that enjoy their own distinct identities.

“A great restaurant is a great restaurant no matter where it is in the world, so we didn’t have any concerns about taking the Spanish Butcher somewhere new.

“Louise and I just said to each other: ‘Ok, I think it’s time to open a place in Edinburgh now’.

“We spent a lot of time there last year really getting to know the place and looking at different sites.

“There’s a real buzz on North Castle Street and I think what we’ve done with the space is going to really excite people.”

After months of extensive renovation work and staff training to ensure the show kicks off without a hitch, there are just a few days to go until opening night at the Spanish Butcher in Edinburgh.

Ready to keep up the theatrical flair he first encountered in New York while serving frites to film stars, Rusk concludes: “I’m totally buzzing.

“Louise and I are lucky enough to be business partners and learned a long time ago how to work together and make the most of our own personalities and strengths.

“We sit down together and think about everything from where each table is going to the kitchen layout.

“Seeing it all come together gives me goosebumps.

“Restaurants are such special places, and we feel really blessed with the reaction we’ve had in Edinburgh already.

“Hopefully we’ve made something that people will love and return to for many years to come.”

The Spanish Butcher will open at 58A North Castle Street on Friday, May 10.

For more information visit their website here.