When I think of Crockers and the places they’ve gone and are yet to go, it makes me realise just how long we’ve been blogging! Although it was still only just over a year ago they were out at Potten End in their first and somewhat petite chef’s table venue. Driving through Potten End it could easily be missed, as the exterior gave nothing away to what you would experience inside. You were transported to the ultimate of culinary destinations with a series of mouth-watering dishes prepared, cooked and served just for you with the company of only a handful of guests. It was an altogether unique destination and with the relaxed, fun charisma of Scott and Luke engaged in the theatre of preparing food, it was an experience like nothing else.
When they announced they would be looking for a new home we were all on tenterhooks and then finally they confirmed that they would settle in Tring we were all excited at what this famed restaurant would bring to the town, along with the renovation of the beautiful ‘Hyatt’ building. They came and they delivered in buckets. Those stunning interiors sourced by Jules from Ruby Tuesday, that big open 15 seater chef’s table, more of the incredible food, cocktails and wines curated by Sommelier Ian. Crockers had most definitely found its’ spiritual home. But that wasn’t the end. They had a recipe for success and a plan for growth. A year on, another announcement – they were developing a second site and this time in the Chilterns town of Henley. The new site promises to be a much bigger venue with rooms and a bigger restaurant and chef’s table, making it their most ambitious and exciting project yet.
But (and once again), I digress…I do love a back story, don’t I? Well actually I just love a story and I think they are always worth the wait?
So back to Tring. Well a lot has changed there also. With the opening of the new restaurant they were able to also open Luke’s longed for bar. Finally there was a home for cocktails he loved and that were popular with guests and a huge array of spirits including their very own Crocker’s gin from local distillery Puddingstone Distillery (home of Campfire Gin). But with the bar came further evolution. With the Chef’s table upstairs often sold out 3 months in advance, it made sense to offer dining of a similar ethos in the downstairs bar. In May this year the Dining Room opened. The standard and concept behind the food is much the same as the dishes that make the tasting menu upstairs, but this time they are ordered as small plates of your choosing that you can enjoy with drinks.
We feel like we’ve been on a journey with these guys. Probably just like the annoying kids in the back, but we’ve followed with enthusiasm all the same! As a bit of a casual diner and a fan of their amazing food I was keen to see what the Dining Room had to offer.
It was a rainy Saturday. In fact not just rainy, but flipping windy too – the type of day you just can’t get excited about. Well that is unless you have the most incredible lunch to look forward to and it turns out we had just that! Welcomed by Barman James we were escorted to our table (well actually we faffed for about 15 minutes trying to find a table with the best combination of light and size for picture taking #bloggerproblems!) Once settled we chose a couple of their trademark cocktails (if you’ve not tried them yet, you must!) this time a Margarita and a Whiskey Sour. I think all Saturdays should start with tequila and it would make life a whole lot more interesting! We were presented with the menu – a simple one pager, and I was immediately excited. Excited by the number of options I wanted to try and also the intrigue of the unusual combinations that meant I would be getting something totally new and exciting. We chose a selection of seven small plates – salmon tartare with seaweed and capers, Isle of White tomatoes with burrata, broad beans and peas, crispy cod with tamur pepper, cauliflower and sabrasada, jackfruit tomato salsa corn and chipotle ketchup taco, tamarind marinated bavette steak with miso mash and beef sauce, toasted flat bread with Baron Bigod cheese and truffle honey, and garlic and herb fries with truffle mayo. In the Dining Room the small plates come out as and when they’re ready so you get to enjoy your drinks with the intrigue of wondering what tasty morsel will arrive in front of you next. Every dish that arrives is so full of flavour and individuality that you relish every dining moment. Stand outs were probably the marinated steak which was like the essence of the best roast dinner you could ever taste in melt in the mouth steak pieces, the fresh zesty salmon tartare, the delicious pesto covered burrata and tomato salad (that came at the end like an unexpected welcome surprise) and I’m told and have heard before that the flatbread is incredible. It is genuinely hard to think of a better way to while away the hours than gradually grazing on the delicious plates in the relaxed bar with a few drinks. In fact the table next to us came as a four and had made the decision to order every dish on the menu and were slowly working their way through it – if ever there was an excuse to bring friends!
We ended the meal with the incredible Gusbourne Sparkling wine and deserts of strawberry cheescake with ice cream and meringue and chocolate mousse with salted caramel ice cream. As always, these dishes are special – the meringue I am told is freeze dried and my mousse was served at the table hand poured by James. Both the high standard you expect …and I can still remember the taste of the salted caramel in my dessert and it’s pretty amazing!
So now the bits we all dread hearing about – the cost. Well actually, the prices are on the menu nestled just under the desserts which is a pretty fitting place as they are almost as sweet! Prices are per dish (dishes are not priced individually) and they start at £15 for 3 dishes, £20 for 4 and £25 for 5 (you get the picture…) In fact I was so surprised at the great value I did need to double check as you are unlikely to find other venues locally that serves food at these prices, much less at this standard.
I’m super excited to have discovered the Dining Room and it’s relaxed dining ethos where you can go for a casual few drinks and layer incredible food on top. If you’ve been thinking of trying Crockers for some time, but hadn’t yet booked or don’t quite have the time or budget for the tasting menu – go try this. It’s impossible to find fault with the luxurious, yet no-nonsense vibe of the place, the food you won’t find elsewhere and flavour you won’t forget. We love the variety and unquestionable quality of the Crockers offering. This team well and truly deserve their reputation for destination dining and I’m excited to see where the next stage of the journey takes them. But most importantly, right now I’m planning my next trip to the Dining Room to check out a few more of those dishes and of course some more of those incredible cocktails! ?