When opportunity knocks, you must answer the door. That’s exactly what Darren Velvick did when Marriott offered him the chance to take over the 5th floor restaurant (previously AZUR) within Dubai Marriott Harbour in the heart of Dubai Marina. The Croft is Darren’s new restaurant which sees his name up in lights and unlike most chefs which have their name behind the restaurants, you will actually find Darren working in the kitchen.
He’s worked with some of the world’s best chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing but wanting to steer clear from the fine dining scene, Darren was keen to bring a more down to earth concept into the Marina. Enter The Croft. A casual dining restaurant serving British cuisine inspired from his upbringings in Berkshire, England.
It was such a pleasure to actually meet the Chef and brainchild behind The Croft, Darren Velvick. Working alongside is his super friendly protege and restaurant manager Jane it made for one of the most memorable #zomatomeetups to date.
Upon entering the premises you are instantly relaxed by the rustic décor which provides a classic countryside charm. As a welcome drink we were served a pomegranatini; a mocktail made with pomegranate lime and ginger with a tingling sweet taste.
Inside the venue glass screens were removed from the old AZUR space to create an open view kitchen and more rustic touches were added like wood paneling and giant chalkboard pieces and pendant lights. I loved the glass roof panels above the dining area which relays ample natural light although it can prove challenging for the food photographers.
The outdoor garden area has picnic style seats as well as bean bags and sun deck chairs and a wooden gin bar as well as artificial grass, flowers in watering cans and panoramic views of the Dubai Marina.
Darren loves to use local farmers and locally sourced ingredients and organic produce where possible. He is very sustainable and nothing goes to waste in his kitchen. Even the unused parts of the chicken are kept for making sauces etc.
As Darren talked, we ate, starting with wooden boards of appetizers including: mini fish cakes, devilled chicken skewers ( spicy & delicious), crispy mushrooms as well as scones with goats cheese, beetroot and walnuts (personal fav) and deep fried prawns with a sesame vinegar soy dipping sauce (divine).
Darren then got to work to show us how to pipe a bird. Rather than stuff the insides, he creates a pocket under the chicken skin with his fingers and then uses a piping bag to insert the combination mix of butter, crumbs, foie gras and truffle. He then gives us a demonstration on how to truss a bird before preparing the sides that we will have with our roasted organic chicken.
For the sides we had a risotto with mascarpone cheese, parmesan cheese, wilted spinach, charred corn kernels and buttered button mushrooms. Such a hearty meal, boasting with aromas and flavors. I’ll be coming back for this particular dish alone.
No #zomatomeetup would be complete without dessert. Darren set us a challenge to plate our own dessert with half of the foodies creating an eton mess or as Darren has cleverly renamed it to ‘Neat & Tidy’ and the other half plating up the peanut choc-ice dessert. Everyone added their own flair and it was nice to be able to get hands on for some friendly competition.
The neat & tidy was piped with an elderflower cream and decorated with raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries, gin and elderflower jelly as well as fresh mint. A lovely combination of flavors and textures.
As a special treat to @dxbfooddiaries we all sang Happy Birthday as Darren had secretly arranged a chocolate fondant cake for the birthday girl.
I learnt so much tips & tricks from Darren about cooking that I can’t wait to try them out at home and I especially adore the Croft apron we received in our Zomato goody bags. Big props to Pallavi, Eshne and the Zomato team for the invitation and organizing such a memorable event.
So if you’re looking for a fun, relaxed environment with some great British grub, head on over to The Croft and you’ll see Darren and the team in action.
I’m already looking forward to my next visit.