Chiltern Firehouse: Impressed (October 2014)

Perhaps the best way to approach the Chiltern Firehouse is with a high degree of scepticism only then to find expectations surpassed. I had been put off for two reasons. First, the obvious: I would prefer to dine somewhere based on the quality of food and not on which A-through-to-Z-list celebrity I might have a chance to spot. Nearly every person I had spoken to prior to our visit name-dropped that they had seen the likes of the Beckhams or Lindsay Lohan there but failed to comment on the food. My other reason relates to the fact that after having attempted to book for lunch in late August, I was snootily informed that the first available option they could offer me would be breakfast, in mid-October. My comrade and I both thought that after having had to endure a six-week wait for a table (and for arguably the least ‘fashionable’ meal of the day), it better be good. Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised and would return. The advantage of opting for breakfast was that there was not a star in sight and, instead, we could focus on our surroundings, the food and the atmosphere. Chiltern scored on all three counts. In terms of location, the eponymous former fire station has been refurbished tastefully, with an emphasis on the classic rather than the trendy. There is lots of natural light and tables are well-spaced. The calmness of the outside area (albeit absent of people when we visited) also appealed and one could easily imagine sipping either tea or cocktails here in the summer. Onto the menu, and with Nuno Mendes, innovative inventiveness is the name of the day. Do not expect bacon and eggs here at breakfast. I sampled a wonderful spiced crab omelette with sourdough bread while my comrade opted for a wild mushroom hash. My omelette was light and fluffy with a subtle yet effective chilli kick, while my comrade’s dish was rich and earthy. Both were beautifully presented on cast iron pans brought straight to the table. The food came surprisingly quickly after ordering and the service could be improved upon (my tea came after the food rather than before, without an apology, while there was also a mix-up with the bill), but staff had a positive attitude. There is undoubtedly a relaxed but buzzy vibe here, which probably becomes more pronounced (and louder) as the day progresses. Although not cheap, by upmarket London standards, the cost is fair. Overall, we enjoyed, even (or particularly) without the celebrities. No doubt Chiltern’s success will endure for some time to come.