Review: Crocker’s Folly, St John’s Wood, London

Crocker's Folly Bar. Credit: Adrian Houston
Crocker's Folly Bar. Credit: Adrian Houston

The elegant yet unassuming exterior of this former Victorian gin palace, which has been re-imagined for modern visitors, belies its opulent interior.

Crocker's Folly Bar. Credit: Adrian Houston
The Marble Room, Crocker’s Folly. Credit: Adrian Houston

In a corner of northwest London, a short stroll along the Regent’s Canal from Little Venice lies an elegant former gin palace that bears testament to one man’s ambitious entrepreneurial plans, which turned out to be his folly.

In the mid 1890s businessman Frank Crocker saw an opportunity that he deemed too good to miss. He’d heard of plans to build a new terminus for the Great Central Railway in St John’s Wood and he decided to cash in on the anticipated flow of passengers by building a new luxurious hotel nearby, ornately decorated with stucco panels and a marble bar. It was the age of train travel and it couldn’t fail to succeed. Or so he thought. Unfortunately for Crocker, local residents successfully campaigned to have the route changed and his plans were scuppered, and the elaborate hotel became a pub; the story is referenced in the name change of 1987.

Although the pub fell into disrepair and eventually closed in 2004, it reopened in 2014 following a major restoration project and today, stepping through its Victorian facade and parting the red velvet curtains that man the doorway, is like stepping back into the opulence of the late Victorian era.

The Marble Room lives up to its name and, just as in Crocker’s time, it is decked out with 50 types of marble, creating a grand saloon, which would be our preferred choice for a table for dinner.

The menu consists of hearty fish and meat dishes, cooked well, and in the adjoining Lord’s Dining Room (named after the nearby cricket ground) you can see the chefs hard at work.

Crocker's Folly. Credit: Adrian Houston
Lord’s Dining Room, Crocker’s Folly. Credit: Adrian Houston

We recommend you start your lavish meal with a trio of oysters before moving on to a Chateaubriand for two – a 500g beef tenderloin served with triple-cooked chips and a choice of delicious seasonal vegetables.

After dinner pull up a pew at the 1898 Bar and have the cocktail tender fix you a show-stopping drink – just tell them what you like and they’ll do the rest. Interiors don’t get much more glamorous than this, so soak it up.

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