Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chiltern Firehouse - London

When the Doctor Businesswomen - our friend from London, fellow enthusiastic gourmand and bon vivant - went with us to Amritsar, she said that the next time we were in London we should have a meal at Chiltern Firehouse.

Chiltern Firehouse Hotel and Restaurant, in our old stomping grounds Marylebone, opened in March 2014 to a fabulous response. The Chiltern Firehouse was an actual fire station which has been converted. The place is owned by an American hotelier Andre Balazs who has a string of hotels in the US. This was his first outpost in the UK.

The restaurant is large, the Hotel Bar is sort of attached to the restaurant and the open courtyard had tables and fairy lights and candles. All look extremely pretty. Of course it was too cold to sit out in the open courtyard.

The Executive Chef at Chiltern Firehouse is the much respected Nuno Mendes (a disciple of Wolfgang Puck) having also worked at the legendary El Bulli. Nuno Mendes was the former Head Chef at Viajante where he had a Michelin Star. Now he is in charge of the stoves at Chiltern Firehouse. He describes his style as 'Iberian, though somewhat Asian with some South American and Latin American influence'

Chiltern Firehouse is a darling of the celebrities. David Beckham, Nigella Lawson, David and Samantha Cameron, Bono, Naomi Campbell, Lindsay Lohan and God knows who else. The waiters have uniforms designed by J Crew. The Waitresses have Emilia Wickstead jumpsuits [whoever Emilia may be]. The staff all look smashing, and unusually, a majority of them are English, not English speaking but, English. There is a cool open kitchen where you can watch all the action. The kitchen has a counter running on its outside where you can sit and have your meal. The whole restaurant is very glamorous. Very impressive and with a great buzz.

We had a table at 7 pm and were warned that we would have to surrender the table at 9 pm. By 7.03 we were all seated. Doctor Businesswoman brought along her partner - whom I shall affectionately call `The Experience’ – so, it was 4 of us. A bottle of champagne was ordered to get things going. There were a lot of Aperitifs on offer but we stuck to the Champagne. To nibble with our Champagne a portion of Crab Doughnuts were ordered. These were absolutely delightful and are a signature dish here. You get a Golf ball sized Brioche ball sliced in half and filled with delicious Crab Mayonnaise. The Doughnuts are dusted with Crab Coral. Crab Coral is crab roe. Really nice.

Crab Doughnuts

For starters Doctor Businesswoman and The Experience shared half dozen oysters. HRH the Queen of Kutch had Venison Carpaccio with Smoked Yoghurt, Walnuts & Horseradish. She pronounced this as delicious. Unfortunately, there is no photograph. She said that the dish had brilliant textures with the creamy Yogurt and the crunch of the Walnuts. I ordered what has become a Chiltern Firehouse favourite which is Grilled Octopus Aubergine, Pickled Daikon & Mushrooms. The plate is as pretty as a picture. To eat, it was stunning. Rather unusually, to me, the dish was not Middle Eastern in flavour but was Japanese, Oriental and full of Umami flavours. Aubergine is used a lot in Japanese food as is Daikon. The Aubergine was beautifully pureed and flavoured with Soy or Miso or both. The Octopus, such an Iberian ingredient was wonderfully charred, smoky and incredibly tender. Fantastic dish.

Grilled Octopus Aubergine, Pickled Daikon & Mushrooms

For mains Doctor Businesswoman and the Experience ordered Welsh Lamb, Aubergine, Yoghurt, Black Sesame & Chicory served pink. Once again on one level such a classic pairing of ingredients and on another level so beautifully adapted to a sort of Oriental flavour.

Welsh Lamb, Aubergine, Yoghurt, Black Sesame & Chicory 

HRH the Queen of Kutch asked for Slow Cooked Cod with raw & roasted Carrots and Brown Butter. This was also served pink, which is unusual at first blush, but then you ask yourself what is Sushi? Pairing Fish with Brown Butter is again a classic combination. Please have a look at the photograph. This is quite a dish and with some fairly unusual cooking techniques.

 Slow Cooked Cod with raw & roasted Carrots and Brown Butter

I, as readers will by now know, am partial to Pork. On offer was Iberico Pork Shoulder chargrilled served with Courgette & Chard Miso and a Yeast crisp. I have no idea what a Yeast Crisp is nor how it is made. You can see it in the photograph; it looks like a shard of glass. The Pork was also served rare. The Pork was beautifully charred on the outside and pink and soft on the inside, totally lean. We simply do not eat raw pork in India as it can be dangerous. But in Europe pigs are fed appropriately, vaccinated and tested. So eating pink pork is safe. The dish lacked a bit of salt but that was easily remedied. Wonderful.

Iberico Pork Shoulder chargrilled served with Courgette & Chard Miso and a Yeast crisp

3 desserts were ordered to share. The best by a country mile was Ice Cream with Honeycomb, Honey and a Honey Jelly. Brilliant. The Beetroot with Ice Cream as less successful. I thought the Beetroot could have been sweeter. The last of the trio was a Dark Chocolate Delice which was nice.

The evening was far from being over. 9.00 pm had long gone and we were still at our table. So, The Experience suggested that we move to the bar and have a bottle of Champagne. So we retreated to the room everyone wants to get into. This is located behind the sommelier's passage which now houses the wine and which was once where the firemen stored their ladders and stabled their horses, is the Ladder Shed. Now it is a sumptuous bar resembling a slice of another retro Miami Palm Beach style as we have seen through several Hollywood films. Officially it's only possible to step inside here (once you've announced yourself and signed the black leather guest book) if you're a hotel resident or their friend. However, once we signed into the big leather book we went in. The evening continued and so did the drinking, sparkling conversation and much merriment. One bottle led to another and we finally staggered out at close to 12.30 in the morning.

If you read my post on the Colony Grill Room you will recall my theory that the cost of the interiors of the restaurant had to be recovered from the food. Unfortunately at the Colony Grill Room the food was quite poor, thus giving this theory some substance. At the Chiltern Firehouse, though as much would have been spent on the interiors, the food was excellent and did not leave you feeling short changed in any way.

It was a most wonderful evening. The food was top notch and the restaurant was a real looker, the company was great, conversation was eclectic. What more do you want?

Unhesitatingly recommended.

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