Recently refurnished hotels in New York are a commonality by André Balazs, but for his first foray into the London market, he has certainly outshone himself by converting an old fire station into a beautifully cosy, stylish designer hotel restaurant. With involvement from Nuno Mendes (from the now closed Viajante), this restaurant lives up to expectations both in style, substance and most of all, ambience.
Foodwise, the menu is an American inspired twist to Nuno’s contemporary style, with bar snacks including buttermilk fried chicken. Coated in a thin crispy batter liken to a panko crumb rather than the heavily floured batter prevalent in many American diners, the succulent bite size pieces of chicken are served with a smoky bacon ranch dipping. A dish of which you could happily devour a whole bucket.
Mains such as slow-roasted short rib with hazelnut purée with bone marrow and slow-cooked cod leek hearts with romesco are well executed but somehow lack the innovation and wow factor previously delivered by Mendes. The short rib is slightly on the firm side as opposed to soft and falling off the bone, whilst all the other flavours worked well to complement the meat; rather predictable. The cod is light and clean, cooked sous-vide so the flesh is almost opaque and the texture silky smooth.
The main dish that impresses the most is vegetarian – courgettes and mushrooms in a creamy oat risotto with spinach and herbs. It is so flavourful and vibrant in colour with the mushroom umami flavours emanating through the dish. The chef’s ability to liven-up vegetables used more commonly in salads and then combine them with the al dente texture of the oat risotto shows creativity and the chef’s ability to think outside the box.
The other standout dish is the dessert – frozen apple panna cotta with toasted meringue and a herb granita. Presented in a translucent circular bowl the panna cotta is not too heavy and the portion size is well adjusted to avoid overpowering the herb granite while the herb flavour was not overly pungent. This dish is perfectly balanced and is created with thought to texture, flavours, temperature, freshness and acidity.
Chiltern Firehouse is the perfect restaurant to impress visitors (without using views as a selling point), to catch-up with close friends or to celebrate a special occasion. The ambience and decor is outstanding and it’s one of the most unique restaurants London has to offer. This combined with the food that definitely pushed boundaries, Chiltern Firehouse’s name should spread quickly.