If you are looking for a spectacular dining room to celebrate a special occasion, then Crocker’s Folly in St Johns Wood must be high on the list of venues to consider.
The incredible story behind Crockers Folly is the stuff of Hollywood movies. In the mid-1890s, Frank Crocker thought he had made an entrepreneurially clever move in investing in a luxury hotel in St Johns Wood because he thought the grand central railway was about to have a new terminus in the area. He invested in expensive wooden panelling, gamboling cherub sculptures, impressive pillars and 50 kinds of marbles were used in the construction. Sadly, the railway route was changed last minute and unsurprisingly this grade II listed building was subsequently named Crocker’s Folly.
However, it is no foolishness if you stumble upon this fine dining establishment. The elegance of the food certainly matches the regal surroundings and for once, you can enjoy refined Lebanese cuisine without the sight of stereotypical mosaic tiles and the sounds of traditional mijwiz ringing in your ears.
We started our Lebanese feast with a creamy lentil soup which was spiced with cumin and olive oil and we loved the texture of the toasted Lebanese bread which accompanied the soup. The other starter we tried was the sambousek cheese, the lightness of the pastry and the gooeyness of the cheese really shows a pastry chef at the very top of his/her game. This is just the type of starter, you don’t want to share with anyone else.
Sourcing of ingredients is very important here; the king prawns main course contained well-sized crustaceans which were superbly seasoned with the chef’s secret spicy sauce. However, one of the prawns did have a slightly soggy, mushy texture. Although the dish came with a portion of rice and vegetables, we decided to share a portion of falafel as a side dish. The balls of beans and fine herb croquettes had real crunch and a lemony, garlicky kick with the accompanying tahini sauce. My guest did prefer the falafel to have been larger in size so that you can taste the flavours of the beans.
Lebanese cuisine has always been extremely vegetarian-friendly and it is no exception in Crocker’s Folly. The aubergine stew my guest had was sumptuously soft and baked to ensure maximum flavour along with tomatoes, onions, chickpeas and sweet peppers.
To finish, I tried the classic Middle Eastern dessert of Osmalieh which is baked vermicelli with cream cheese topped with rosewater syrup and sprinkled with pistachios. It doesn’t feel overly sweet and had a great variety of textures.
You might not have expected great Lebanese cuisine from Crocker’s Folly, but it is a great joy these days to find unexpected culinary surprises.