The Chiltern Firehouse is currently the hottest ticket in town, but the star of the show is Nuno Mendes, says Amanda Afiya
If there was ever a restaurant on fire, metaphorically speaking, Chiltern Firehouse is it. The latest opening from hotel mogul André Balazs, owner of the stylish Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, the Mercer hotel in New York and the Standard hotels in various cities across the US, Chiltern Firehouse is his first international property.
Situated in the heart of Marylebone, the Grade II-listed gothic building was originally London's first purpose-built fire station, but Balazs has transformed it into a chic hotel with a New York-style brasserie at the heart.
Its status on the London dining scene is poker-hot, and it's almost impossible to get a reservation such is its popularity with celebrities like Bill Clinton, the Camerons, Kate Moss, Lily Allen, Bono, Bradley Cooper, ‘Mr Selfridge', and what seems like the entire cast of Made In Chelsea.
The star of the show, however, can be found in the kitchen, in the form of the highly talented Nuno Mendes of Viajante fame, who has created a laid-back but dazzling menu inspired by his years working in the US with Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, among others.
"I have spent a fair bit of time in various parts of the world so I like to showcase the different cuisines that I have been passionate about over the years," says Mendes. "I spent 16 years in North America, and the menu at Chiltern Firehouse is a good reflection of that."
The experience being offered at the Chiltern Firehouse, where he is currently serving 250 covers typically for dinner, is at a polar opposite to what he offered at Viajante at the Town Hall hotel in Bethnal Green (now the home of Jason Atherton and Lee Westcott's Typing Room).
Compared with Viajante, which seated 35, Chiltern Firehouse is very much in the big numbers game, and as a result the kitchen has been designed to cope with the demands.
"The format of the kitchen and the equipment we have to work with is much more complete and allows us to have a clear separation of areas," he says. "The menu is created around the sections in the kitchen: the wood oven, the grill, the wood grill, the plancha, for example.
"When cooking for such a large number of guests you have to change the way you do things. During mise en place you have to push much harder and get things to the best point possible because during service there is not much time to tweak things. The devil is always in the detail."
Dishes that have emerged as bestsellers include crab donuts, starters of steak tartare, pine nuts, chipotle and Firehouse hot sauce (£16), the Firehouse Caesar, crispy chicken skin, Parmesan (£12) and the chargrilled Ibérico pork, raw and roasted turnips main course (£29).
"Ibérico pork is something that we have always used at Viajante and the Corner Room, but it is now getting a chance to pick up some lovely charcoal notes from our wood fire grill at Chiltern Firehouse," explains Mendes. "As a chef I like to push myself forward. I like to think that I'm a multi-faceted person
and therefore I like to explore different angles in my cooking." Demand suggests he's hitting the right note.
From the menu
Starters â- Red prawns, almond milk, smoked grapes £14
â- Soft poached egg, Jersey Royals, wild garlic and morels £14
â- Grilled octopus, aubergine, daikon and mushrooms £16
â- Monkfish cooked over pine, puffed barley, fennel £28
â- Roasted turbot, seaweed fregola, cucumber and crème fraÁ®che £30
â- Wood-grilled aged beef Ribeye, Isle of Wight tomatoes, chimichurri £36
Desserts (all £9) â- Strawberry sundae, milk ice-cream, caramel swirl
â- Frozen apple panna cotta, herb granite, diced meringue
1 Chiltern Street
London W1U 7PA
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