The Chiltern Firehouse opened in a blaze of publicity and quickly became the place to be seen. With all the publicity, the paparazzi waiting outside and newspapers documenting which “A” lister had been this week, I did wonder if this restaurant was more about its image and how it was perceived than the quality of the food. How wrong was I.
As ever, we were early. I hate being late, but despite being twenty minutes early our table was ready and we had a choice of going to sit or going to the bar. We went for the bar. Although once we’d ordered the drinks and realised there was nowhere to sit we changed our mind and headed for the table!!
Brian our waiter introduced himself and assured us he would do everything to make sure this was the most memorable evening. A bold statement from him, I was still erring towards sceptical. We ordered our food, after much debate amongst the four of us as there were several dishes that caught our eye. I was looking through the wine list when the Sommelier arrived and asked if there was anything I was looking for. I said to him that I was looking to see if they had Caymus from California as I thought it would go well with the meat we had ordered for three of our main courses. They didn’t but he suggested an alternative. He described this bottle with such knowledge and enthusiasm I couldn’t help but be swept along with his passion. As we waited for our starters I watched him decant it. He checked the cork, he checked the wine, he was leaving nothing to chance with his recommendation. He bought it over for me to taste but said it needed time to open up, which it did.
Before our starters we shared some crab donuts which were lovely and very lightbut we did find a few small pieces of shell. We followed with the cuttle fish, the burratta and the smoked eel. Karen had the burratta which she enjoyed but it didn’t wow her although she did admit afterwards that if she’d ate it with all the ingredients together instead of individually she may have thought differently as she found the apple element very refreshing when she had it with the creamy burratta. Dave had the smoked eel and loved it. I had the cuttlefish, something I’d never had before. Texture wise it was very similar to squid, beautifully soft and tender. It was hidden under the blackest of black sauces which also contained a mustard seed crumb for some texture. As I shared with everyone else I had a flash back, do your remember black jack chews and how they would turn the inside of you mouth black? That’s exactly what happened with this sauce, obviously we used white wine to minimise the effect.
Beverley went for the salmon which she asked to be cooked through and not pink, it arrived still moist and not over cooked. Once I’d removed the incredibly crispy skin from the plate that had already been separated from the flesh, we had one happy pesky Pescetarian. The rest of us had gone for meat, Brian told us the chef recommended mine and Karen’s fillets medium rare and Dave’s ribeye medium. Karen normally has rare and Dave mediumso but who are we to argue with the chef, we took his advice. To be honest the fillet looked more rare than medium rare but it tasted amazing.with a wonderful smokey almost barbecue flavor and this incredible mushroom ketchup. I never saw Dave’s ribeye as I was too busy looking at my fillet, judging by the smile on his face he was happy. The red wine having now had time to breath had opened up beautifully and was a perfect match, a wonderful choice by the sommelier.
Karen enjoyed her chocolate frangipani but as it was the first time she’d had a frangipani she had nothing to compare it to. Dave, like the previous two courses said very little and just ate, only pausing to wash his rhubarb down with the dessert wine. Bev went for the cheese board which we all had a bit of, one of which was particular memorable… Up close we all thought the smell reminded us off a fresh cow pat. I’m sure it didn’t taste like one not that I’ve ever tried eating one but there was more of that cheese left than the others.
I chose my dessert specifically because of my mate Steve who is always in search of the perfect key lime pie and I’m going to have to bring him here to try this one as I think it’s superb. It’s not your typical construction, it hasn’t been deconstructed more reconstructed. A beautiful quinel of marscapone and meringue shards sit on top of what appears to be a thick rye biscuit but it’s not a thick rye biscuit at all. As I break through it I realise that it is actually wafer thin and incasing the lime curd on all sides which now oozes out. I love a dessert with a surprise.
There is a great atmosphere here, the staff are friendly and helpful – the doorman even ran to a busier road to hail a black cab for us. Everyone seems happy to give and do that little bit extra to make your evening more enjoyable and memorable. I was skeptical before we came here but not now, The Chiltern Firehouse lives up to the hype.
Adam & Beverley xx