There’s a type of tourist who visits London and expects to visit the fabled quintessential Victorian pub. An old-school boozer packed with old-school charm. They’ll thumb their guidebooks and traipse everywhere from Camden to Clapham, but they won’t find Crocker’s Folly – and they’ll have missed out. After years of living in London the Grade II-listed building is a literal hidden gem – its twinkling chandeliers and polished marble (no less than fifty types) concealed behind heavy wooden doors and frosted glass. The menu has recently undergone a revamp – with a huge selection of Lebanese plates.
Named after Frank Crocker, who, in 1890, heard that the railway line was due to end in St John’s Wood and built a lavish railway hotel right opposite the spot – sparing no expense. When he heard the change of plan that the line actually was set to finish in Marylebone he threw himself off the roof of the building. Many say that the building is haunted and still see Crocker’s ghost. You don’t get a good Victorian pub without a good Victorian ghost story do you?
The Venue and Atmosphere
The exterior of the restaurant doesn’t do the interior justice – not helped by the fact that it’s located at the end of a quiet residential street that many would walk past without a second thought. But step through the heavy red curtains at the entrance, and the restaurant is a sensory overload – it’s more like walking into the Vatican than a London pub (a slight overstatement, but you get the point). Chandeliers are ten-a-penny and ceilings are intricately etched with gold leaf. It’s a great place to go for a group occasion dinner as there’s loads of space, you can make a reservation and it’s suitably fancy. It’s the type of place you’d take parents when they come to visit and you have to prove you’re a responsible adult and know sophisticated places to eat and don’t just hang out in dive bars the whole time.
The Food and Drink
Arrive early, because it’ll take a good 15 minutes to read the whole menu – there’s a huge amount of dishes spanning five pages. From hot and cold starters to meats from the Josper grill and soups and salads. We ordered two Folly in Love (£9.50) cocktails – a floral and fruity mix of rose essence, lavender bitter, raspberry and champagne, and to eat, opted for the Soujok sausages (£8) and Aubergine and Pomegranate Kibbeh (£8.50) to start, and although a little on the small side, the sausages were a winner, coming in a thick tomato and lemon sauce. The kibbeh were perfect to share, and I only wish the dishes had been a little cheaper to be able to try more of them.
For our main course, I was swayed by the Josper grill and chose the Kasaleta Veal (£22), which came perfectly cooked with a smoky charcoal flavour and juicy with a side of crisp fries. I also ordered the Tomato & Onion Salad as an additional extra (£4.50) which was zingy and fresh against the meat. My friend chose the Sayadieh (£19) – cod on a bed of brown rice which came theatrically presented in a bright blue tagine. The additional sauces and dips that came with the main courses were great to dollop on torn-up flatbread – these plates are made for sharing.
It’s definitely more of an occasion meal than your local neighbourhood restaurant, but not being that close to any tube stations just makes it worth going out of the way for. Staff were friendly and attentive and explained the Lebanese dishes with the utmost patience. Perhaps a slimmer menu would mean slightly cheaper dishes – but I’ll be heading back to try everything I missed first time around.