Crocker’s Folly: Not worth the wait (December 2014)

When I first moved to London 16 years’ ago, I was lucky to have as my local boozer Crocker’s Folly, a quite remarkable pub, decorated in a high Victorian style with much marble and mirrors. The ales were great, they had a lovely weekly pub quiz and average pub grub (for the late 90’s). However, it never got that busy and it sadly shut in 2004. However, after three years’ of hard work and loving renovation, the place recently reopened, no longer as a pub, but as a fancy dining location owned by Maroush, the successful Middle Eastern chain. My dining comrade and I visited recently, excited to see what they had done to the place and what it now had to offer. However, to describe the experience in just word, we would both choose disappointing. Before dining, we had decided to enjoy a cocktail in the bar. There was no shortage of staff, shaking their mixers and looking suitably hip, but our server must have missed a trick somewhere along the line. We asked for two Martinis, one gin, one vodka. His look was one which combined incomprehension and incredulity, followed by the question of did we really want these two alcohols combined in one glass? Well, yes, that’s what a Martini is. Third time lucky and prompted by a visit to our table by a second (better-informed) member staff, we eventually got our drinks, even if the olives had stones in them – never a good touch. During the wait and the confusion, we did at least get a chance to enjoy the décor, which showed all of the loving attention and reparation one might have expected. Through into the dining room, the décor continued to impress, but the service and experience did not. While Maroush has a reputation for Middle Eastern cuisine, the menu was solidly modern European, with not a touch of hummous or kebab in sight, a slight disappointment, or at the least, a miscommunication somewhere along the line. The food we sampled was solid, but far from ground-breaking. My octopus starter was unpleasantly chewy and my comrade’s soup hardly wowed. Mains were better, a well-executed piece of cod and a tasty dish of gnocchi. However, the poor service was the principal talking point among us once again. To name just a few of the errors, a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé was confused with a Pouilly-Fumé, our bread plates were whisked away even before the starters had arrived yet the butter dish left on the table, and the gap between our starters and mains was non-existent. When the bill eventually came, it was by this stage unsurprising that they got it wrong. The first time we were over-charged, the next time under-charged, although there seemed little point in complaining, especially since the whole thing had been far from good value anyway. If Crocker’s Folly is not to shut soon again, the service seriously needs to be upped here. Come and marvel at the décor, but my best advice is just ask for a non-complicated drink at the bar and then dine elsewhere after.