Review – A Chef’s Table at Crocker’s Folly – St John’s Wood, London
Crocker’s Folly (previously The Crown) was built in 1898 in the Northern Renaissance style by a man named Frank Crocker. Now a Grade II listed building, it was originally intended to serve the new terminus being built by The Great Central Railway. It turns out that Frank’s location was a bit off the mark and the new terminus was actually being built in Marylebone, over a half mile away. This eventually led to his supposed ruin and therefore ‘folly’. At the end of the last ccentury the building fell in to disrepair and was placed on the English Heritage Buildings list as ‘At Risk’. It was eventually bought by The Maroush Group who have pain-stakingly and lovingly restored it to it’s former glory re-opening in October 2014. Whilst this is a sad story the building itself is far from one. The main attraction inside has to be the room formerly known as the ‘grand saloon’. An extraordinary design featuring 50 different types of marble (including in the walls and counter tops), stunning chandeliers and amazing fireplaces. It truly is one of the most magnificent buildings I have dined in to date.
My visit here tonight was to participate in a Chef’s Table where chef tries out new dishes for the upcoming seasonal menu. The chef cooking our dishes tonight is none other than Damian Wawrzyniak, you may know him. He previously worked at what is reputedly said to be the world’s number one restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen. I had been invited by Zomato along with some other food bloggers who I have met at various events namely Suze, Michelle and Rosie, as well as some new faces to me. Before us was an epic night of 12 courses to try. Luckily I was wearing stretchy trousers, a must for me in this business!
We began with a refreshing cocktail in the bar before being led into the dining room and taking our places. Chef Damian came out to explain a little about the menu we were to be trying and to tell us that we would be going down to the kitchen at some point to see how they prepare the Porterhouse steak that was to come.
We started our night of feasting with the ‘Snack’ section – These were as follows – Chicken Skins & Onion, Raw Lamb (eek!), Josper Grilled Brined Cauliflower Topped With Caviar and New Potato, Herring & Oat Cake. Of these my favourites were the chicken skins, really crispy and the cauliflower which was a great way to get your cauliflower cheese fix without all the glugginess that comes with being smothered in cheese sauce, wonderful!
For the ‘Main’ dishes there were to be five – Gravad Lax with Beetroot Crisps & Walnut Bread, Salt Baked Beetroot Salad with Pine Nuts & Rocket, Venison Pie with Root Vegetables, Pearl Barley with Mussels and Porterhouse Steak with Skinny Duck Fat Chips.
The Gravad Lax was presented at the table whole and carved in front of us, for a foodie it was a beautiful sight and tasted delicious. I was greedier than my diners, having three slices but you only live once right? My favourites for this section were the Venison Pie and the Porterhouse. As I mentioned above we were to go down to the kitchen to see the Porterhouse being prepared and cooked. What we didn’t realise was that under chef’s supervision it was to be cooked by one of us. Step forward Rosie! As Rosie runs her own supper clubs she seemed a good choice as we all happily volunteered her. She did a great job and the steak was cooked beautifully.
No meal out is complete without dessert so with bulging waistlines we forged on. Coming up was a Chocolate Sphere, Baked Alsaka with Bergamot Ice-cream and a Maakaroun. I really liked the chocolate sphere although there was a lot of giggling going on as we all tried different methods to crack the shell whilst retaining our table manners. Turns out a good ol’ fashioned bashing was the way to go. My dessert of choice though was the baked Alaska, a personal favourite and beautifully light with a yummy caramel sauce on the side.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the maakaroun was served or I was going to miss my last train home. I have been reliably informed that they were very good. I should also say that with each course there were matching wines served from Lebanon, France or Chile. The one in particular that got my vote was the Concha Y De Toro, late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from the Maule Valley in Chile. I do love a good Sav. As I wheel-barrowed myself to the train I reflected on what an amazing night I had had with delicious food, great wines and fabulous company. Chef Damian did a fantastic job of turning out some truly magnificent dishes and the splendour that is Crocker’s Folly is somewhere you should definitely put on your list of go-to places. Thank you to the Crocker’s team for being such excellent hosts, the refurbishment is outstanding as are you. Not all of these dishes may make it on to the upcoming menu change but you can be sure that the ones that do will be pretty tasty!