The last time I visited leafy Maida Vale I was 19, a couple of years ago, really. Coming off the tube at Warwick Avenue, with Duffy’s song in my head (of course), I realised what a lovely neighbourhood this is. Sun setting casting long shadows over the trees, grand period mansions, the canal with the house boats placidly floating, I should really come here more often. After such a pleasurable albeit short walk, I arrived at the Crocker’s Folly, a Victorian building which apparently was supposed to be a grand station restaurant, when Baker St Station was supposed to be built nearby. Plans changed and such a beautiful heritage was left alone, until a couple of years ago, when it was taken over, lovingly restored and transformed into a gourmet bolt hole for this area of London.
A beautiful Grade II* listed former Victorian gin palace, complete with 50 kinds of marble, Romanesque columns, cut glass chandeliers and carved mahogany.
I was here courtesy of Zomato, a community site for food enthusiasts and non; they occasionally organise #ZomatoMeetup events and this was my first one, so I was not sure what to expect. After a warm welcome by the team and a few bloggers I know including my friend Guan @theboywhoatetheworld, I enjoyed a bespoke, great looking cocktail at the bar, having made the wise choice not to ride my scooter. It looked as pretty as it tasted, but I do not know what was it in – the barman said ‘it just contains alcohol’. I am still standing so I doubt that, but I loved it nonetheless, fruity, not too sweet and refreshing.
We then moved onto the beautiful dining room next door. We had been invited to a #ChefsTable but given the popularity of the event, there were far too many of us to fit in the kitchen. This actually didn’t matter as executive chef Damian Wawrzyniak introduced the menu and every single dish we had, carefully explaining the thought behind them and why he put it on the menu. The whole dinner was to showcase the Crocker’s Folly ‘chef’s table’ tasting menu, a feast of 10 dishes available for a very good value £65 (with optional matching wines).
We got to taste some extremely good dishes, some a little less memorable, but we sure were fed and watered like a Christmas Dinner. We all rolled home afterwards!
We started with fresh bread, marrowbone butter and beef fat with bacon. A fairly substantial start, but full of flavours, the bacon was a great addition to the fat, both in texture and saltiness.
What followed was a little strange: pork crackling with chocolate and creme fraiche. While the crackling was light and puffy, I did not quite get the pairing with the chocolate (which was sweet) nor the creme fraiche. Straight after a very interesting dish: Pickled parsnip. The chef is originally from Poland and he explained pickling is very much part of his culinary culture. The dish was very good, the tartness of the pickled vegetables strong but not overpowering, and really well presented. Next, Brined leek tempura, with a watercress puree. This was really delicious, different, and presented as a sharing dish. A little, pretty morsel followed: Lamb carpaccio, served in a single spoon with wasabi caviar and Parmesan crisp. Skillful dish, it would have been perfect as an amuse bouche, fresh and at the same time richly moorish thanks to the Parmesan.
Another small dish followed, a fish soup served in a raw, carved out turnip; I was not too convinced by its identity as a soup, I must admit. Fish was also on the next course, Halibut wrapped in Desire, a play on the potatoes used in the wrapping of the fish; this was also skillfully prepared, although the potato could have been crispier, and a touch more seasoning was needed despite the champagne sauce and the watermelon garnish.
Lamb cannon was extremely tender and well cooked, but for the life of me, I could have sworn I was eating beef. Either at this point I had had way too much wine for my taste buds to function or it was a lamb with a species’ identity crisis.
Next, another dish that did not fully convince me either. Visually attractive, it was a Crab cannelloni. While my fear of carbs was abated by the actual lack of carbs, I felt the crab meat was overpowered by the creamy ingredients used to assembled it in the cannelloni shape. Still, a dish to be admired for presentation and the work gone into prepping the crab, as it was a very generous portion.
A Beef carpaccio with a fried oyster and Parmesan truffle came after. While I hate oysters (much to the boy who ate the world’s pleasure), the carpaccio was fantastic. Delicate, really thinly sliced and fresh, with beautiful truffle air. Between this dish and the next, I would pick my favourite of the night. Scallop three way was beautiful, with a rich garnish of fresh broad beans, asparagus and salty, mooreish bacon, a winner for sure (although some diners’ scallops were either over cooked, or undercooked – mine seemed spot on). It was so good that the following course (Crocker’s Ceasar salad) was, frankly, unnecessary and not very inspiring.
The final course was the nail in our belly’s coffin: Pork terrine. I really by this point could only manage a taste, and while it was indeed a very good terrine, i wonder why this was the last course of such a pantagruelic meal, and not one of the starters? I think we would all have appreciated it more.
Dessert time begun with a Pop corn ice cream with caramel sauce, and ended with a dark chocolate base Lemon tart. Both dessert enjoyable, and well prepared.
Most of the courses were paired to wines, but I was too far away to hear any details on the pairing and I am not familiar with the majority of the wine presented. By dessert time, my favourite tipple had been a vintage port by Dow’s Quinta di Bomfin.
The chef and the entire kitchen staff came out to a well deserved applause – they certainly did an amazing job, especially considering the number of people and the amount of food we ate. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and sampled some very good food (albeit with some slightly hit and miss dishes), I believe the Crocker’s Folly Chef’s Table offers very good value for money in a stunning setting.
Thank you Zomato UK for inviting me to such a wonderful evening.
Sustainable? Yes, chef Wawrzyniak is keen on using sustainable fish choices
Dog friendly? I forgot to ask!
I was a guest of Zomato on this occasion and was not asked to write this post; opinions are my own.