The Chiltern Firehouse is achingly trendy, and most reviews will tell you the following essential information: it’s an Andre Balzars hotel, he of the Mercer in New York, and the famously louche Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. I can`t comment on those two establishments, but he does have an all-star address book and a demon PR machine, which has meant that the Firehouse has acquired the reputation of being a celebrity hang-out par excellence, and so some name dropping now follows – Princesses Eugenie & Beatrice (OK, discount them – I think they show up anywhere for a free meal) Kate Moss, Naomi, various Delavignes, Lily`s Cole & Allen, The Cameron`s, Simon Cowell, Keira, Lindsay Lohan, a Clinton or two, and any Premier footballer who can convince security that’s he`s not a look-alike.
It’s not easy getting in if you are not one of the in-crowd, or a designer clad head to toe in black, and don`t forget accessorise with some obscure Japanese Specs at £700. Not wishing to put myself through the grief, I cunningly waited until a friend, also with a demon address book invited us over. To get her Laboutin`s firmly through the door, she block books, then invites strategically.
Madame went “I`m so fashionable, I just don`t care” in green T shirt and jet black strides. Actually, I made her do that, by messing up the ironing. Who knew incompetence with handling Rayon could pay such dividends? I`m not giving a rundown on my sartorial efforts – suffice to say I think I`m a marked man in Chiltern Street.
Before I get onto doing anything so mundane as mentioning food, a special mention to the boys on the gate. Uniformly 6ft 4” and handsome, dressed in wincingly tight jet black jeans and designer Pea Coats in unobtainable shades (no doubt knocked off from the latest show season) they cheekily shepherd the girls through the courtyard flirting just enough to secure their undivided attention and a little glance in the mirror to check the lipstick. Would that we could still strut around with such conviction…
As it’s an old fire station, and listed, you get the obligatory high ceilings and wood and tile walls and floors, but they have done a great job with the interior, courtesy of the French outfit Studio KO. It`s bistro, but more interesting, though the bar area is a bit cramped. There`s a surfeit of staff, and many of them recognisable from various other fashionable joints around town. Money must have been waved – you don`t leave some of their former places at the drop of a hat.
After a round of Champagne and cocktails, we went for a couple of the already famous tapas style nibbles, Cornbread Fingers with Chipotle Maple Butter, and some very sweet Crab Stuffed Donuts (almost like a Brioche). Both beautifully simple, but exceptionally well executed. So I went for broke on the wine – the top Portuguese offering at £120. Forget the cost, you really ain`t here to save money. The octopus tentacles were a delight, and over in moments. This is Chef Nuno Mendes offering you tantalising and gorgeous dishes that tickle the pallet, but don`t trouble your calorie count for the day.
How minimalist can you make a lamb mains? Go on, try me. How about 3 cutlets, shorn from the bone, and shaped to perfectly uniform ovals of meat approx. 5 cm x 6 cm, and a couple of cm deep. Entwined with a selection of artfully woven beans, leaves and micro cress they tasted great, but the balance has shifted a little too far from hearty rustic-ness, which is a shame. Every artist is entitled to dabble, but I think some broader strokes would improve things.
Desserts were a little patchy; the Frozen Apple Panna Cotta, with Herb Granita and dried Meringue was great fun – punchy taste, nicely presented, and so decently proportioned that we all had a happy spoonful, whilst the baked / melted cheese wrapped in leather-like chard, and garnished with some desultory nuts and wafer thin bread was a hoax. There`s a wonderful world of really good cheese out there, with one of the best cheese shops in town only 200 yards away. Go figure.
So, back to that ache, does it provoke lust and aspiration, and a willingness to endure the “bookings are closed until the end of September” treatment, or would a couple of Asprin and a trip to somewhere less stressful be better? I say go – it’s a fun place to be, and after a couple of passes through the menu the already really nice staff will say hello, and actually know who you are, plus, Darling, you might even get one of the favoured banquets like we did. Then you really know you have arrived!