As today is the first day of September and we start our descent into autumn, it seems appropriate to write about the only restaurant that seemed to matter to London this summer, the Chiltern Firehouse.
Harder to get a table at than, well, ANYWHERE, the Chiltern Firehouse turned what used to be a seemingly sleepy little North London street in Marylebone into an extreme celebrity and paparazzi hangout. Calling excessively for a reservation to the point where I was on a first name basis with the hostesses — Calum, Lauren and Elizabeth — I, a mere mortal, eventually got a table for a Monday evening at 6:30PM. WIN. I was a bit bummed to discover I missed Orlando Bloom’s presence by two evenings but hey ho you can’t have everything.
Housed in a grade II-listed 1889 fire station, the Chiltern Firehouse is the undertaking of Andre Balazs, whose hotels The Standard and The Mercer are top destinations for NYC’s hippest visitors. Chef Nuno Mendes comes from Viajante, a Michelin starred East London haunt. All in all, a team that seems destined for success based on reputation alone.
At the Chiltern Firehouse, whose architecture and decor makes it the second most beautiful restaurant I’ve been to in London — Berner’s Tavern being the first — the hostesses, tall gazelles in stylish jumpsuits who more closely resemble Vogue models, glide through the restaurant with ease. The waitstaff is perfectly attentive without being overbearing. Hostesses, waiters, waitresses and sommeliers alike do not discriminate against you for not being a celebrity which I appreciated greatly. I am very important, dammit.
Whilst the food is good, truth be told is there is so much GREAT food in London that this 3 month waiting list celebrity crazed charade just seems bizarre. So, what’s so outstanding about the Chiltern Firehouse?
In terms of food, the ‘snacks’ were the best part of the menu — crab stuffed doughnuts are light and decadent, perfect for summer. Other nibbles include fried chicken with bacon ranch dressing and cornbread with chipotle-maple butter — American inspired classics each with a unique twist.
Starters such as caesar salad (£12) are as you would expect them, except there’s some crispy chicken skin tossed in and toasted flatbread instead of croutons. Nothing to write home about here.
Red prawns with almond milk and smoked grapes (£14) are nothing short of a piece of art, vibrant and bursting with colour.
Normally, the beast wouldn’t order salmon (£26) for a main unless something about it was really really compelling but I wanted to put Chiltern to the test to see if they could sway my meat-inclined mind. The skin was perfectly cooked and the fish was tender. Served with crispy kale and trout roe which provided a refreshing burst of flavour, I was pleasantly surprised although my natural instincts tell me I still should have gone with the chargrilled Iberico pork or spring lamb…
The pan roasted chicken with bacon and mushroom panzanella (£26), a type of Italian salad, seemed a bit too safe for a kitchen genius like Mendes.
All in all, it’s a decent restaurant but would I be rushing back? Not really. And like any supernova restaurant opening, it burns bright and fizzles out, only to be overtaken by the next big thing.
1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA
Tel: 020 7073 7676
Website (which is rubbish): http://www.chilternfirehouse.com/
Reservations (good luck with that): RESERVATIONS@CHILTERNFIREHOUSE.COM