Crocker’s Folly is one of the most extraordinary London restaurants that I’ve ever come across. Housed in a spectacular Grade II listed Victorian building, it’s been lovingly restored to its former glory by the Maroush group. I was invited to experience the Chef’s Table, an epic 10 course meal.
Dating from 1898, it was originally built as the Crown Hotel by local entrepreneur Frank Crocker. He had heard that the new terminus of the Great Central Railway was to be sited in St John’s Wood and hired architect Charles Worley to create this masterpiece. There are 50 types of marble, stucco ceilings, Romanesque pillars and wood panelling in abundance. Unfortunately for him, local residents campaigned successfully to have the route changed and finally the line terminated at nearby Marylebone instead.
Arriving at the restaurant, I admired the outdoor terrace which seats up to 30 people comfortably. We were welcomed with a quaffable cocktail decorated with fresh strawberries, blueberries and shaved chocolate.
Chef Damian Wawrzyniak is a restaurant consultant who has previously worked at Noma, Copenhagen, widely considered to be the world’s best restaurant. He has put together an impressive selection of courses, including our first snack of chicken skins and onion. Carefully balanced on a wine glass, the chicken skin had a great crunch to it. Complemented by the fresh herbs and onion syrup in the bottom of the glass, it was a great start to our meal.
The last of these somewhat filling “snacks” was a Josper grilled brined cauliflower topped with caviar. This was easily my favourite, despite me being a self-confessed vegetablephobe (is that even a word?).
We moved on to the first of our main courses, a new potato, herring and oat cake. I really enjoyed the herring though the oat cake was a little dry for my taste. Accompanying these was a refreshing white Ksara Chardonnay Cuvée des Papes.
Chef Damian then carved a whole gravadlax salmon in front of us and asked us to come up and choose the size of portion that we wanted. Served with walnut bread and beetroot crisps, the marinade had really brought out the flavours of the salmon.
Continuing the beetroot theme, our nex dish was a salt baked beetroot salad with toasted pine nuts and wild rocket essence. As you can see, it looked a bit like a Jackson Pollock painting. I’m not a huge beetroot fan but it certainly went well with the crunchy pine nuts.
Up next was one of my favourite main dishes, a hearty venison pie with pickled root vegetables. The courgettes, carrots and girolles were a great mix with the tasty venison and the puff pastry was beautifully light. Our red wine, a rich Elevé Pinot Noir Vin de France was a winning combination with the pie.
My pearl barley with mussels was pleasant enough but I was feeling rather full at this point.
I just had time to try the delicate and fluffy Baked Alaska with bergamot ice cream before I had to head off. Believe it or not, there was one more sweet treat after this, a “maakaroun”. I’m sure that this exotic take on a classic macaron was another triumph.
The Chef’s Table is run on a seasonal basis and is by invitation only, however do get in touch with Crocker’s Folly if you are interested in attending. It showcases dishes that could make it to the menu if guests particularly enjoy them. Some of the dishes that I tried are currently on the menu, including the salmon gravlax and the Porterhouse steak. I’m crossing my fingers that the venison pie and chocolate sphere make it on there too!
Crocker’s Folly, 24 Aberdeen Place, St Johns Wood, London NW8 8JR