It’s pretty impossible to escape the buzz surrounding Crockers Chef’s Table. Whether you’re waiting with excitement for the opening of their Tring site or you’ve already visited the Potten End restaurant, you’ll probably have a feel for this place being different and exciting.
By the end of 2016 owner Luke was determined to inspire a change in the restaurant industry. Jaded by his experience of working in the kitchens of top London restaurants for long hours, low pay and stressful conditions, he wanted to find a way of providing first class food without perpetuating the industry-wide poor working conditions. He even came close to leaving the industry altogether, but instead took on the site at Potten End and having already made contact with his soon to be Head Chef, his plans Crockers Chef’s Table started to form and later opened early 2017.
So what is a Chef’s Table? It’s not the usual dining experience – kitchen and dining room are not separate entities but instead the guests are invited to become part of the kitchen. The food preparation is theatre as the dining tables are set around the work area and you watch as your meal is created for you.
Of course there’s something else that’s special about Crockers and that’s the chef. Heading up the kitchen is Masterchef finalist Scott Barnard. Mega talented Scott runs every aspect of the kitchen from menu selection to creation of the incredible food and is now as much part of the Crockers brand as owner Luke.
For our first trip to Crockers we decide to go for the tasting menu. Whilst through the week they offer a three course menu, weekends are all about tasting. Over the space of three hours we will immerse ourselves in the incredible food of Scott Barnard and enjoy the full Crockers experience. The menu, which is fully designed and put together by Scott, changes every month, so you really do have every excuse to keep coming back.
On arrival we’re greeted by a relaxed and friendly Luke. Luke believes that food doesn’t need to be surrounded by pretension and instead is committed to producing great food for people in a relaxed, enjoyable way. There’s no snobbery if you don’t understand the wine list or a look down the nose if you’re not quite dressed right. This place is all about simplicity; really incredible, beautifully presented food, great drinks and some fab banter from the guys – Scott and Luke.
This time there are six of us for lunch, so we join the table, meet our fellow guests and are served drinks (Campfire gin and tonic for us, of course!) All ready for us are Scott’s homemade potato chips and dip, swiftly followed by some unfeasibly pretty and delicate squid ink canapés. We’re off to a great start!
Now if you follow Crockers on Instagram you will already know about the Tring Brewery bread and marmite butter. Yep those little round loaves, served on toasted grains are just as perfect in real life. Unfortunately I’m not able to eat the bread, but I’m told by my official taster “it was really great bread”. Mmm…just as well he’s good with a camera! I guess you’ll just have to go try it for yourselves to nail that flavour! Served with the bread was a sensational rich Jerusalem artichoke soup that exploded with flavour. To me this epitomises everything I love about a tasting menu – you get to experience such a big range of textures and flavours in one sitting, without feeling overfaced.
Following the soup we enjoyed a palette cleanse in the form of a celeriac, pear, maple, foie gras and hazelnut salad which gave the perfect zesty crunch to follow the richness of the Jerusalem artichoke and the perfect prelude to the main event.
Next up was the skate with brown shrimp and it was just the ideal fish course. The skate had been removed from the bone and rolled into the perfect melt in your mouth parcels flavoured with the rich brown shrimp and cut through by lemon with the accompaniment of broccoli.
Our second of main course was the Cumbrian Beef with smoked garlic leeks and truffle. A rich and tender combination that again, perfectly complemented and was full of flavour.
The main courses were then finished off with a cheese plate. This time it was a rich melting Brie served with crisp sesame crackers.
We were then treated to a pre-dessert! After a few minutes speculation about what that might be were treated to a treat in a bowl that can only be described as a Mojito in dessert form. It was a refreshing, herby, icy delightfulness that perfectly cleansed after the rich cheese.
So that leaves me to the dessert. Where do I start?! I always think a dessert in a tasting menu is a tricky thing. A dessert can really over-face you and if you’re on multiple courses in can be the last thing you need. But this! This was perfect. The perfect balance of flavours, textures and quantity, with chocolate, bananas, peanuts and lime it was pure pleasure on a plate.
We finished our meal with teas and coffees and yet more treats from Scott. We loved sharing this meal with the guests but also with Luke and Scott. The food is incredible of course and this is an experience you won’t find elsewhere but what I love most about the Crockers experience are the personalities of Luke and Scott and the fact that you’re invited to form part of their circle when you come to eat. This place is exceptional but at the same time it is completely no nonsense and I love Luke’s determination to approach the restaurant industry in an entirely different way. Their move to Tring is hugely exciting with a bigger, more luxurious site planned and more facilities, and yet I’m quite sure this is just the beginning for Crockers. See you very soon guys!
Crockers Tring opens April 24th 2018
Images by Matthew Bishop Photography.