By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Home to the Prime Meridian, a bustling market that’s been trading since the 14th Century, Christopher Wren’s Architectural masterpieces Royal Observatory and the Royal Naval College, as well as The O2 Arena: Greenwich is a global tourist hotspot, yet there’s still a criminal lack of good quality restaurants. The Market itself contains a wondrous selection of street food stalls, but if you’re local and plan on eating out anytime during the week or after about 4pm on a weekend, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything exceptional. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is impressive, yet niche and expensive, Café Sol has disappeared and Desperadoes is at threat of closing also. If chain restaurants are what you’re after, there are three (yes, three!) Nando’s within a stones throw of each other, and as for The O2 Arena’s internal restaurant selection, the less said, the better. Efe’s Meze and Zaibatsu out on the Trafalgar Road towards East Greenwich do offer some fair-priced authenticity and there’s more “gastro pubs” than Tom Kerridge’s ideal Empire, but until recently, seasonal British produce-filled menus seemed as rare as a Wetherspoon’s with a Michelin Star.
Thankfully, Craft London has arrived just in time with the constant re-development of what used to be Greenwich Marshes until the disastrous Millennium Dome was constructed, before becoming one of the World’s most prestigious live music venues. Situated on the path between North Greenwich Tube Station and the entrance to the aforementioned venue, Stevie Parle’s latest venture is a welcome addition to Greenwich Peninsula. Famed for their accomplished menu that’s quintessentially British, featuring produce so local that the majority of it is grown within a stones’ throw from the restaurant, while all of the Meat Smoking and Curing is done onsite. The restaurant complex even keeps its own Bees, for Heaven’s sake.
Upon traipsing up the stairs at a prime lunch time, the modern restaurant space was almost empty, so having been seated right next to the window, over looking the Meadow that belongs to the restaurant, whilst to the right of us; some poor souls were half-heartedly climbing the O2’s monolithic structure in the blistering midday heat. We soon found ourselves tucking into some delicious Sourdough and Bread fresh from the Kitchen’s Tandoor oven, accompanied by an artery-clogging slab of Clarified Butter (made on site, needless to say). Choosing from the A La Carte menu, to start I opted for the I.P.A. Cured Galloway Beef Leg (£9.50), featuring subtly flavoured trimmings of Meat served as part of a salad with Beetroot and Radish leaves: good but not as expectation exceeding as my companion’s Smoked and Grilled Eel (£12.50), glazed with a sticky Treacle. On to the mains, the Ross Chicken dish (£24) caught my attention the most, served almost like an English Ramen equivalent, with an ample portion of Chicken, a Lilac Kombucha Egg, and a Cheesy Dumpling, while a cup of warm Bone Broth is poured over, not forgetting the side plate that contains Pickled Alexanders, which when added to the Broth bring a new dimension of sweetness to the dish, as well as two Deep-Fried slices of Pork Crackling. The portion size of this dish is gargantuan, which could be off putting for some, you’re faced with the choice of enjoying the delectable dish at a reasonable pace so that the Broth eventually loses its warmth before you’ve reached the half-way point, or wolfing the whole dish almost competitively, retaining the dish’s optimum heat. Just don’t leave the Crackling to last, as we did, as the perfect crunch would’ve been much more enjoyable at the start of the meal, fresh from the pan. My companion’s Butter poached Turbot (£32), on the other hand, was wonderful.
As for desserts, the Creamed Barley Pudding (£9) with Strawberries and Pea Olive Oil (yes, it really does work) would’ve benefitted from a little more Meringue, but the Warm Honey Rye Cakes (£7) are well worth the wait, served with Raw Cream or a supplementary dram of ‘Spurious Barrel’ (a specially distilled Scotch Whiskey) bring the whole meal’s finest moment. To ask whether Craft was the best restaurant within the shadow O2 would be a silly question. Craft delivers far beyond expectations, leaving this writer impatiently awaiting his return.