Rewind 2 weeks:
What took me so long to check out Chiltern Firehouse? First the wait for a dinner table was ridiculous, then the reviews in general were so-so, finally the menu wasn’t half as exciting as Nuno Mendes’ Viajante. I lost interest. However one of the things we have yet to accomplish during my countdown was to have starters, mains and desserts in three different places, choosing only their signature. Brunch at CF was surprisingly easy to book, with their most talked about dishes on the menu.
It was pretty packed on a Sunday afternoon. Shan was already waiting at the bar, and after much confusion and the stunning receptionist admitting that she hadn't brought her brain to work (I had my doubts on its existence), we were seated at the counter. The decor boasts plush homeliness. It feels like a scene from Made in Chelsea (I have only seen the adverts); the female staff were strikingly beautiful in their silky turquoise open-black one-piece uniform, gracefully waltzing between tables with a winning smile. The male staff were exceptionally dressed and dapper, charming their patrons as they explained the menu. Needless to say the majority of the clientele were smartly dressed in casual dresses or jackets, sipping cocktails and champagne.
We opted for a couple of champagne cocktails too, each with a sickly sweet romantic name that would make you blush when ordering even if you were on a date. And at a whooping £18 each; I could almost hear my wallet wail - this price would get me two funky bespoke cocktails at Purl across the road, which by the way, is one of the best speakeasy cocktail bars in London. Nonetheless these were nice and syrupy. While I usually like sitting at the counter to watch chefs at work in the open kitchen, it was uncomfortably warm - more from the lamp than the grill we worked out. 20mins in, we were ready to order our starters for the day.
Crab Stuffed Donuts
We debated if ordering nibbles counted as a separate course. The conclusion is obvious.
Our server, in a white casual jacket that made him look the part at the Royal box at Wimbledon, recommended it. Meh. It really wasn’t that special. A teaspoonful of shredded crabmeat mayo wedged between a cut-open mini donut; they could have made more effort say, with an explosive mouthfeel. To be fair, our debate on what counted as a starter was much more interesting.
Steak Tartare pine nuts, chipotle & Firehouse hot sauce
This was excruciatingly disappointing. The dish arrived semi-mixed; the roughly chopped cubes of raw beef was already dressed and coated in a creamy citrusy sauce, but then there was two more blobs of sauce and a raw egg yolk. Upon mixing the tartare became an unrecognisable slimy mess, where the sauces have overpowered all delicate flavours from the beef. But that’s not it, the dish came with even more Firehouse hot sauce on the side, in case you wanted to make sure the cow starts swimming before drowning to death. Yes the whole ensemble was very pleasing to the eye, just failed everything else.
Lobster and Crab Omelette potatoes, chervil & coral mayo
Shan opted for the posh omelette. The first thing he noted was the smell of greasy food, not dissimilar to Chinese fried rice. There was plenty of lobster and crab meat, springy and succulent, but the oceanic sweetness was drowned by thick mayonnaise sauce and heavy seasoning. It wasn’t a bad omelette, the flavours were good; what it lacked was the finesse one would expect for finer foods.
The bill came to an eye-watering £95 for 2. We were sure it wasn’t the food we were paying for. It was a surreal experience, a bit like being served cold cheese on toast at a wedding; I had a great time but the food was the only let-down. I had high hopes for Nuno Mendes, and his take on modern American cuisine didn't do it for me. On the plus side, at least we didn’t wait for dinner.
1 Chiltern Street
Tel: 0207 073 7676