Of course it’s a good thing for chefs to source their ingredients carefully, and then create interesting dishes. On that front, Craft London delivers, boasting properly aged rare-breed meats, an acutely seasonal all-British cast of ingredients, and an intricate and engaging menu.
However, at some point during the meal, I started to feel less like I was getting a good deal and more like I was subsidising the chefs’ hobbies. Meats are cured, butter churned and even coffee roasted in-house, while the kitchen team experiment with the lacto-fermentation of vegetables and keep their own bees.
While Craft’s impeccable sourcing and the skill of its chefs are undeniable – each ingredient is exemplary of its type, each dish perfectly cooked and presented – none of the dishes we tried transcended the sum of their parts. A starter of half a carrot, two spears of asparagus and a drizzle of creamy mead and anchovy sauce (for an overpriced £12) underwhelmed; better was an attractive plate of chopped raw Highland beef with salmon roe and diced pear, the intriguing contrasts of textures and flavours all balanced on sweet vegetable crisps. Hereford beef sirloin had a lovely chewy grain and deep wood-grilled flavour that the accompanying dab of bone-marrow sauce and splash of lovage liquor did little to counterpoint. Sides were small and cost a fiver a throw. A cocoa-rich, coffee-laced chocolate fondant with a delicate sugary crust was an intense finish to the meal.
The prism of high pricing can’t help but distort the pleasure of the dining experience. When you’re spending at least £150 for two even when being abstemious, you can expect a comfortable ride at the very least. But the bum-shiftingly unforgiving turquoise chairs at the overlit tables at the edge of the room are to be avoided. These naff design fails are in stark contrast to the considered and luxurious experience suggested by the menu.
There are good things about Craft London, not least the cocktails, which are laced with own-made tinctures and infusions. But unfortunately for proprietor Stevie Parle and his team, the most memorable thing about this meal wasn’t the imagination of the cooking but the shock of the bill.
Craft also has a cocktail bar where you can enjoy the same wonderful views while drinking well-made drinks. This is by far the more affordable option.