Saturday, 1 November 2014

Crocker's Folly: new kid on the block

Crocker's Folly tavern
Recently opened Crocker's Folly isn't exactly the new kid on the block - the building dates back to the late 1800s - but it certainly feels like it. It has been empty for an age and more recently boarded up while undergoing a loving and painstaking renovation which has restored the venue to glory. As you'd expect from the Maroush Group, purveyors of (good) Lebanese food up and down Edgware Road and pockets further afield, there is an element of bling in details like the impossibly-light chandelier and the well-buffed marble that greets you at every turn. It all has a shiny new feel to it. The food is polished as well, with the menu devised by a talented chef who has worked in some serious kitchens like Pollen St Social and noma. But the investment in the rooms and the food comes at a cost, with prices that I consider punchy for a neighbourhood spot. So, is it all fur coat and no knickers?

I visited for lunch on the Sunday after Crocker's official opening. I'd been keeping an eye on the place for a while since it's in my neck of the woods (although I live on the other side of the Edgware Rd tracks), and the teaser shots of the interior were swoon-worthy. Ahead of the opening, I saw a few pics on Instagram of the soft launch to whet the appetite too. But despite being "open", the menu was still the limited soft launch one. A fuller offering, including bar snacks in the tavern, is expected over the coming weeks. Prices on Sunday weren't soft launch-worthy however (they were giving a free oyster to each diner though). 
Josper-grilled rib-eye (£24) served with triple cooked chips and peppercorn sauce. Photo credit: @Sirbakealot
The food was uniformly good with unusual twists like the miso purée with my crispy-skinned tender lamb and heritage carrots. We aren't in average Sunday pub lunch territory are we? The 350g rib eye was flavoursome and cooked as asked, although the peppercorn sauce had a slightly odd smokiness to it. The triple-cooked chips looked like they had missed the third cook however, and were on the sallow side, lacking crispiness. The chips, like the rest of the savoury dishes however, were perfectly seasoned.
Matured lamb, miso puree, celeriac & heritage carrots (£19)
Desserts were perfect for what they were - a sweet, albeit deconstructed, cheesecake served in a glass, and a disc of rich chocolate mousse with a pineapple granita, although it lacked the perfume of the tropics.
Chocolate mousse, pineapple granite (£6.50)
Service was nervous and anxious which made me nervous and anxious on occasion. Thankfully, lightening reflexes prevented a fork from skittering across and scratching the new wooden floors at one point. On another, our lovely waitress was shaking so much when she delivered a cocktail that I thought I might wear it.
Soft orange cheese cake (£6.50)
With entrées over a tenner and mains pushing the £20 mark and over (for the Josper-touched meats), it's far from a cheap meal. Perhaps the folks on this side of Edgware Rd can afford a regular £75 Sunday lunch (for two people, 2 courses each plus a cocktail and a fruit punch) but I kind of baulk at that. I did see a couple of diners with young kids leave, I'm guessing because the menu doesn't cater to the average punter. Maybe the upcoming expanded menu will include a more accessible Sunday roast.

Still, while I get that the renovations cost a bomb, I really think Crocker's should have invested in a more experienced front of house, which is currently the weakest link in the proposition, to justify the prices being asked.
The grand dining room of Crocker's Folly
So, is Crocker's all fur coat and no knickers? When it comes to the food, definitely not. My lamb had loads of flavour and the steak was great. But as for the whole package, I think time will tell. I'll go back for a cocktail or two in the future and check out the bar menu as well. Hopefully the staff will have found their feet and the place will buzz with the confidence the building deserves.


Crocker's Folly on Urbanspoon

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