Book review: Chiltern Firehouse The Cookbook

20 January 2017 by
Book review: Chiltern Firehouse The Cookbook

By Andre Balazs and Nuno Mendes
£30, Preface

Chiltern Firehouse opened in Marylebone, London, in 2014 in a blaze of publicity and quickly became the hottest restaurant in the city. Despite rave reviews there was more media interest in which famous names owner and hotelier André Balazs could attract than the dishes coming out of the open kitchen, headed by cult chef Nuno Mendes. This beautifully produced book, filled with thrilling recipes, will help redress the balance.

If you've followed Lisbon-born Mendes's career in the UK over the last decade, from the molecular gastronomy-era Bacchus in London's Hoxton, through the influential Loft Project pop-up to the critically acclaimed Viajante in Bethnal Green, his appointment as head chef of an upscale American-style brasserie might have seemed leftfield. But reading the book's frustratingly short autobiographical section (it comes to a halt when Mendes arrives in London in 2004), you learn that the chef has worked not just for Ferran Adrià and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio in San Francisco and Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, making him almost uniquely suited to the job.

He pays tribute to his mentors with dishes such as Firehouse Caesar, based on Miller's recipe but with added crispy chicken skin, and a take on Puck's herb gnocchi served with morels, peas, Parmesan cream and edible flowers. But mostly this is undiluted Mendes, filtering his Portuguese heritage and travels to Spain, North and South America and Asia through his own very distinctive gastronomic lens in signature dishes such as the infamous crab doughnuts and visually arresting barley and oat risotto with courgettes, artichokes, spinach and herbs.

Recipes ricochet around the globe, from a Cajun quail to Chinese-style lobster XO noodles and a Portuguese-Japanese fusion of grilled octopus with aubergine, daikon and mushrooms.

No attempt is made to hide the fact that Chiltern Firehouse is a glamorous destination; there's an excellent chapter on the cocktails served in the bar and the shots of the chic front of house team could have been ripped from the pages of Vogue. Yet there is true substance beyond that style, enough to inspire and excite any chef looking to expand their culinary horizons.

By Andy Lynes

If you like this, you may enjoy these

  • Morning, Noon, Night: A Way of Living Soho House
  • Coyote Cafe Mark Miller
  • Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Genevieve Ko
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