While I was in London, I had dinner at one of the hottest restaurants in town, Chiltern Firehouse under the helm of Executive Chef Nuno Mendes. This hotel and restaurant is owned and operated by André Balazs, the famous hotelier behind luxurious, global properties that are chic and places where everyone wants to be seen like the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.
This grand, Victorian firehouse with large doors and high ceilings, lit by filament lightbulbs, brick tiles on the walls, wooden floors that spill over to tiled flooring and green velvet benches giving a very modern feel with traditional brasserie. Front of the house staff are dressed in sharp costumes like the female staff are in teal green jumpsuits, the maitre d’ is wearing a white suit with a black bow tie with hair slicked back like it’s the 1950s, wait staff are neatly dressed in slim fitting denim button down shirts and black trousers. It sort of felt like a time warp but with a New York City vibe.
Beyond the chic atmosphere and the fashionable, well-off crowd gathering around the bar for a drink and conversation, the food is delicious. The food is cooked under the helm of Nuno Mendes and Dale Osborne. The crew is cranking out very good fare that’s fit for the fashionable jetsetters but at the same time interesting enough for the jaded food people to be interested.
I luckily had a seat at the counter right next to the open kitchen to see the action.
I started out with the snack of beetroot blunts (£5), three pink cigar-shaped rolls filled with beet root and yogurt. Delicate brittle crust meets a bright red, earthy-sweet and tart beet and yogurt that has a zingy endnote from the grated horseradish mixed in the filling.
The grilled octopus with aubergine and mushrooms (£14) was a very solid appetizer. Tender, smoky octopus with purée of smoky aubergine (eggplant) and little cubes and sheets of delicately sweet daikon radish and earthy mushrooms.
The main course of monkfish cooked over pine, puffed barley and fennel (£28) was wonderful. The silky, tender fish was faintly smoky with a pine scent without overpowering the delicate fish. The texture variation of crispy puffed and soft boiled barley was great and the gentle anise flavor of the poached fennel elevated the dish.
If anything, the dessert (£8 each) is a must here. If you read their dessert menu, the most unique is the frozen apple panna cotta with herb granite and dried meringue. What I envisioned in my mind is very different with what I had in real life, in a very good way. It almost looked like an adorable snail plopped in bowl of spring green grass. This dessert is essentially a riff of the baked Alaska. The frozen panna cotta has a torched swirl of meringue surrounded in a fluffy, icy granite that was bright and refreshing (both in temperature and flavor). It’s a brilliant dessert.
Despite of all the attention this place gets because it is a hot spot to be seen but it does have substance beneath the stylish veneer of it all. If you can manage to get a reservation, do try to get the counter. The service is warm, friendly and professional and by all means, please get the frozen panna cotta for dessert.
To view more photos of this dinner, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:
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1 Chiltern Street
London W1U 7JA
Phone: +44 20 7073 7676