Review: Craft London

June 25, 2015

Greenwich Peninsular is getting the regeneration treatment. Right now it’s a sad, grey expanse consisting of a few warehouses and a giant circus tent where you can watch the Foo Fighters. But in five years… It’s going to blow your mind. The brochure says it’s going to be full of flats and a theatre and a gallery and a film studio and a golf driving range. Take note, people: the future is happening.

It already has Craft London, the third restaurant by Stevie Parle, the chef behind the acclaimed Dock Kitchen in Ladbrook Grove and Rotorino in Dalston. It’s a change of direction for Parle – in the past he’s opened his restaurants in areas that have already been well and truly reclaimed by the aspirational classes. This time developers are using him as bait to lure people to north Greenwich. It sounds like a risk – sure, Craft has one of Europe’s biggest entertainment venues next door, but do people really want a six-course tasting menu before they watch Fleetwood Mac? Las Vegas may have worked out how to combine fine dining and pop concerts, but on these shores, places like the O2 are still the preserve of chains like Frankie and Benny’s and TGI Friday’s and other places I’d rather spoon my eyes out than eat in.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way… Craft is nothing if not ambitious – as well as the restaurant it also boasts a shop, a cafe, a cocktail bar with panoramic views and a terrace. It has an apiary and a roastery and a smokery. It has aging cabinets and places to grow things and pickle things. If you can grind it, tend it or set fire to it, Craft probably has one.

Parle continues his relationship with furniture and lighting designer Tom Dixon (Dock Kitchen, originally planned as a pop-up, is in Dixon’s showroom), and the blown-glass light fixtures and smart blue chairs look suitably dramatic. But they’re overshadowed by the view; I arrived as the sun was setting over the skeleton of a disused gas silo and it was rather beautiful in the post industrial way east London is.

I was there on a Monday night, and it was dead, although a gig at the O2 had already started so I may have missed the rush. I went for the tasting menu, which is £100 with matched wine – certainly not cheap (you can get the equivalent meal at Typing Room for less, and that’s one of the best restaurants in London). Two very nice amuse bouches of buttery cod roe and cured ham barely touched the sides. Clam and bacon, served in the shell with a shallow broth, was excellent; fatty and smoky and dainty enough to leave you wanting more.

Chopped beef with dripping, pear and salmon roe, perched on what looked like a Kettle Chip, was outstanding; scallop with pea and butter puree was even better (you can taste the benefits of growing your own peas); asparagus drowned in butter, while delicious, should come with a health warning.

It all paled in comparison with the eel and pickled mussels with a home-made “porridge” of quinoa, barley, slept and oats. Every flavour stood proud; the smokiness of the eel, the rich, buttery porridge, the faint tang of the mussels: bloody brilliant cooking. The meat course was Angus sirloin – wickedly tender with a charred, herbed crust to die for – with a slightly underwhelming marrowbone bread sauce.

The rich brown butter ice cream – I’m booking a  cholesterol test after this – is up there with my top desserts of the year, overshadowing the canelé, which I struggled to break into with a spoon.

This is a real gem of a restaurant: the service was bright, the cooking exemplary, the wines wet. My only real criticism is the pacing was a little off, a bit quick – presumably a side effect of an otherwise empty restaurant.

An ulterior motive to visiting Craft was to prove to my dinner guest Nick, an old school friend who’s considering moving to north Greenwich, that there’s nothing here. “See,” I envisioned myself saying, “it’s not been built yet, move to Dalston like everybody else.” But Craft is so good it’s thrown me: maybe this is exactly where he should move. Maybe I should follow him.

First published in City A.M.