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23–24 Aberdeen Place
Conceived by local entrepreneur Frank Crocker in 1898, this spectacular high-Victorian ‘folly’ was originally planned as the terminus for what is now the Marylebone line in St John’s Wood, but locals protested, the idea was ditched and the building became a gin palace. Lately, it has been lavishly renovated by the Maroush Group, who have fastidiously restored the interiors to something like their original splendour. Romanesque columns, cut-glass chandeliers, carved mahogany, ‘50 kinds of marble’ and huge open fireplaces form the backdrop to the new bar/restaurant, where Lebanese food is now the order of the day. Starters of baba ghanouj, mousaka and kibbeh set the scene for mains ranging from skewers of grilled meats, plump vine leaves and sautéed seafood with vegetables. The josper grills also provides more meaty large plates and desserts feature the obligatory baklawa and a selection of ice cream.
Best restaurants in St John's Wood
23–24 Aberdeen Place
Warwick Avenue Tube Station 653m
Edgware Road Tube Station 750m
Lord's Cricket Ground 386m
Cockpit Theatre 409m
Mon-Sun 12N-11pm (Fri-Sat -11.30pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
Crocker’s Folly was my local boozer when I first moved to London. Part of its charm was that it never got that busy, hence why it shut down about a decade ago. After a period in which the site remained derelict, Crocker’s reopened in 2014. I visited soon after and was highly disappointed by the service, uninspiring food and poor value for money. With some time having elapsed, a return visit was merited. In summary, the venue remains as stunning as ever, while the menu now has a dedicated Middle Eastern focus. The combination of opulent Victorian architecture and Lebanese-style food may seem like an incongruous one, but it kind-of works. When we visited, on a recent weekend lunchtime, the venue was packed. Many of the guests were families with kids, appealing to the local clientele after a more up-market (and pricier) experience than can be found on the nearby Edgware Road. Gone is the modern European/ Middle Eastern mix with which the venue originally relaunched, while service had also improved immeasurably. The formula is simple: there is a range of cold and hot mezze (think hummus, falafel and the like) followed by more substantial mains (predominately grilled meat) brought to your table by smiling waiters along with a range of soft drinks and wines. All the items from our spread pleased, but we couldn’t help thinking that dishes of similar quality are available for less than half the price charged here, barely ten minutes down the road. What you pay for is the (presumably high) running costs attached to maintaining the beauty of the venue. Rather than a lunch or dinner venue, Crocker’s seems to me somewhere more to come from a drink and an ogle before ambling off nearby in search of food
Food + drink: 4
A few weeks back, I was invited to Crocker’s Folly to experience their traditional Lebanese style dining. Upon entering, I was amazed at the beautiful chandeliers, wooden paneling, and gold-coated interior; it was truly a beautiful sight.
Opened in the mid-1890’s Frank Crocker originally decided to turn the building into a hotel. However, despite being a true entrepreneur, this venture did not come to be as fruitful as Crocker anticipated, which later lead to Crocker’s demise, hence the restaurant being called Crocker’s Folly. In 2004, the restaurant was acquired by the Maroush group and was reinvented as Crocker’s Folly, which they are sure Mr. Crocker would be proud!
Traditional Maroush Hummus
The menu had such variety that initially I was spoilt for choice, however, the headwaiter suggested a mixture of dishes to try. For starters, I opted for the traditional Maroush hummus. There was no way; I was about to enter a Lebanese restaurant without trying their traditional Hummus! Which is made of chickpea puree, sesame paste, and lemon juice, and is served with freshly baked warm pitta bread.
Next to be served were the king prawns; pan king prawns topped with pine nuts and chilli. The prawns are thoroughly marinated and seasoned well, as the flavour can be tasted throughout the prawns. A great tip, I would suggest is squeezing the lemon all over the prawns for an added burst of flavour.
Bastorma Carpaccio with rocket
I am a huge fan of Carpaccio of any kind, therefore when the beef Carpaccio was presented I did feel like all my dreams had come true and were in heaven, especially as it so aesthetically pleasing. The Carpaccio is thinly sliced Bastorma smoked beef fillet, which is marinated with special spices and served with rocket and fresh olive oil. Once again, Folly did not disappoint with the flavour, this is every Carpaccio addict’s dream as the special spices liven the beef with flavour. The texture of the beef is chewy but soft, and despite being with a guest, and this dish is best shared, I decided to have the Carpaccio to myself. I would say it is a must try dish from the menu as it is quite filling and it was my favourite.
Due to my allergies, I could not eat the grilled Halloumi cheese, however, my guest did try the Halloumi and said it was better than Nandos, and everyone loves Nandos Halloumi cheese. All jokes aside, she described the cheese as soft and dewy but with a rubber texture, well seasoned with a hint of spice. I was one of the best Halloumi cheeses that she has had.
Jawaneh chicken wings
One thing I, of course, can eat is chicken wings, so I was here for the Jawaneh, which are charcoal grilled marinated wings served with garlic sauce. As the wings are a bit on the spicy side, the garlic sauce is perfect, as it aids in giving the wings a more savoury/sour taste. However, I will add that the wings do not taste charcoal grilled and the portion is quite small, so it is better to get this dish for one rather than to share. As usual, I ended up being a greedy diner and eating the majority of the wings!
As if there were not enough options already, Soujok was finally brought to the table, which are homemade Lebanese spicy sausages, sautéed in tomato sauce. Squeezing a lemon over the Soujok, allowing the lemon juice to drizzle over the sausages and entwine with the tomato sauce is my tip to you. The lemon juice aids in bringing out the flavours, as this dish is full of flavour. The sausages are a little harder than usual but overall this is a must-have dish!
Finally, to clean my palette was a plate of fruit, serving all my favourites, Watermelon, Kiwi, Pineapple, Melon, and Strawberries. As a lot of spices and flavours were ingested the fruit aided in neutralising my stomach.
Overall, the food was great and positively full of flavour. I loved that Folly’s serve traditional Lebanese food, as it is one of my favourite cuisines, alongside Nigerian and Japanese. The staffs are also Lebanese, which is appreciated, as the staff had vast knowledge of the culture and cuisine in depth, and were able to talk through the dishes.
What to wear: Casual (I wore a leather jacket and jeans)
Ambience: Beautiful décor and knowledgeable staff
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.
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