Every year on my birthday we try and do something special and this year to celebrate J booked us a table at London’s newest celebrity hangout, The Chiltern Firehouse. Anybody and everybody who is worth their celebrity salt has been, so why should we be any different?
It’s famously difficult to get a table at but getting a table here for lunch was a cinch compared to Noma and that would be my recommendation, lunch rather than dinner. The restaurant oozes California cool and has that kind of understated elegance that attracts the eclectic moneyed crowd from all over London and I suspect the local Marylebone and Mayfair set use it as their local.
The main room has an expectant, excitable hubbub with everyone is on the lookout for famous folk and on this occasion, the best we could do was Meg Matthews, not quite the dizzy heights of The Ivy Club where I shared a urinal with Liam Neeson.
Attentive staff fuss and flit, focused on getting us served quickly (we were told they needed the table back in 90 minutes when booking, all the pricey/posh restaurants annoyingly do this). Service is sharp but not stuffy and a businesslike sommelier guided us to a medium priced South African Cab Sauv which I figured would be worth the investment (it was my birthday after all). It was chewy and rich with a reassuring deep dimple in the base of the bottle, my not very scientific way of knowing if any wine is good. Julie quaffed nicely oaked but pricey Californian Chardonnay by the glass and we were all set.
After randomly bumping into another guy from Leeds in the toilets (I know), we got down to ordering from the confidently brief menu, which featured restaurant safe bets alongside interesting asides. There is no outrageous risks to be taken here — it’s all safe territory but done very, very well. Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes clearly takes the view that internationally famous folk and the well-heeled like their food recognisable and translatable but with a bit of a twist.
That said the crab donuts were a stunningly original confection, salty, seafoody. sweet and doughy. I wanted to order another plate right after I’d eaten them.
My steak tartare starter was a classic DIY blokey dish with some much needed hot sauce on the side whilst J’s starter of cured sea trout was the hands down winner in terms of taste.
I think my main of unsettlingly (very, very) pink Iberico roast pork was the winner although served with raw and cooked sprouts, it sounds bizarre but it worked fantastically well. J’s monkfish was a plateful of meaty, fishy tenderness with bright, clean flavours. On the surface, the Firehouse doesn’t look like its expensive but the booze soon escalates the bill into Michelin territory although I would say the food isn’t in the same league as say Murano, but the prices are in the same zone.
So is it worth the hype? On balance I’d say yes. It’s definitely an ‘event’ restaurant, a place to go when there’s a special anniversary and for mere mortals the price point dictates it’s not an everyday restaurant. Food and service is at the top end of efficient and competent and you can definitely eat better in London for less money. But it’s the overall experience that lingers: the sparkling candlelit patio, outdoor fire, the crackle and buzz of a room filled with people enjoying life.
2 thoughts on “The Chiltern Firehouse”
That does look fun, although half your food was raw, some of it might have come from dunkin’ donuts, and of course the rest was booze, which casts no spell over me. Actually there is only one thing I remember from college chemistry, and only one thing I know about booze: the same thing. Apparently when they produce those bottles with the dimple at bottom, inside the bottle on top of the bottom is a ball of glass, and this is the launching pad for champagne bubbles. I don’t know if there’s a bubble in chardonnay.
It must be fun to eat at a CA style place. Here those chairs are everywhere (but aren’t they originally Parisian?), and of course those wretched heaters I hate but emaciated blonds adore keep patios warm. Must be a lot harder where the weather is real. In all tho your birthday party sounds lovely even if some day you might be at risk of being hauled from a toilet in handcuffs. I figure you and Liam are about eye to eye so at least a pissing contest has mainly aiming skills at its core.
Once I made a list for an editor friend of all the celebs I’d seen both here and in NYC, and it was pages long. I attended a movie where the star was in the audience (not as a celeb, just as a viewer, can’t recall his name, he fizzled). Have been in movies where Cary Elwes was in the audience as well as Tom Cruise. I met Harrison Ford as we both exited a movie in Santa Monica. As I said the list is very long. Goldie Hawn dined at a table beside me–both here AND in NYC. Jackie O left her Park Ave office bldg as I strolled by. Bea Arthur crashed carts with me at a market. Donald Sutherland stood nose to wall (no clue why) in Bloomingdale’s linens dept. Ryan O’Neal and Kevin Kline regularly passed my building in NYC, where Christopher Reeve lived two doors down for years (when he still could walk) and Henry Winkler’s parents lived next door. Mondale passed me on 57th St. Poitier here at the mall. And all the people’s kids my dtr attended school with, Diana Ross, Robert Redford, Ralph Lauren. Oh gosh the list is much longer. Dustin Hoffman wolfing pizza on the street in NY and holding the door in the movies for me here. Glen Close by Bloomie’s in NY and Dixie Carter in Bloomies here. Faye Dunaway in a supermarket at midnight under a big hat. Joking with Alfre Woodard about crackers in Trader Joe’s. And of course last week getting my car at a UCLA medical place behind Peter Fonda, which was a let down after being behind his sister crossing the street in Beverly Hills. Getting my hair cut by Brit hairdresser who does Julie Andrews (who dined next to me with her whole family at a little Italian place) and Carol Burnett stopping to chat while Suzanne Pleshette had nails done. I checked out and George Hamilton was buying product. I would have thought he got his skin care at the Coach store. Oh gosh so many more are flooding back.
Well I’m impressed that I can remember all this since my brain is often foggy these days. No doubt that’s because I don’t eat as well as you do on my birthday! Glad you had such a fun time. The food looks fantastic. But was there no dessert?
I can’t bloody wait to go! From reading this I’ve decided I’m gonna take my brother for his Christmas present for LUNCH! Had originally planned to do the Merchants Tavern near your way (http://www.merchantstavern.co.uk/)
Eyes will be peeled in the toilets of course. Loved the look of the raw sprouts. I cannae wait! x