The where to be place de la jour at the moment is undoubtedly The Chiltern Fire House in Marylebone’s Chiltern Street: so many celebrities are tripping out through its garden courtyard that they practically have to queue up to pose for the Paparazzi. So what’s it like to eat there if you are not someone famous and just someone who has been lucky enough to get a table? You may have to wait a lot longer to get a booking than the likes of Kate Moss (there seems to be an inverse ratio between how thin you are and how quickly you can get in) but whether you are the girlfriend of a Prince, one of the supermodels, or a stand up comedienne (all of whom were in the night I was there) you won’t be treated any differently once you arrive. The service is tip top, sweet and polished. The place is crammed with friendly staff wanting to look after you. The room itself contains different sections. Aside from the external courtyard (where drinks can only be served before 9.pm) there is an internal room, full of buzz. Along the side of it is a long bar, crammed with gaggles of gorgeous six foot models, hanging out. There are more tables along the outer wall facing the seating around the short order bar (where people can eat on bar stools) and across from the wood oven, where all the service action plays out. The babble across the space is a happy, low hum thanks to clever acoustic ceiling padding. The non-celebrities in the place are not necessarily too subtle about their celebrity spotting. I noticed that the rather bridge-and-tunnel table who sat near us swinging their heads around and looking seriously disappointed when they rubber necked in our direction (sorry about that!) And the food? Well, it is certainly not the place to have a blow-out, Desperate Dan style. The short menu is aimed at people who like to diet in public. There’s a lot of protein and scarcely a carb to be seen. No bread basket arrives when you sit down – although you could go mad and order a few fries as a side order, maybe for your anniversary or something! We’d heard about the crab doughnuts, which had been raved about in reviews: I’m guessing because the arrival of a carby little ball of briochey stuff was so rare that it created a flurry of excitement. Personally, I found the little balls smeared with a tiny bit of flavourless crab a bit so, so.
My steak tarter had been marinated in a slightly sweet sauce and I have had a lot better in any little French bistro. The most fun was the paddles which you were given to muddle your egg into the mixture. But there was too much yolk for the proportion of meat and the meat itself fell far short of the tender unctuousness it should be; in fact it was a tad tough – dare I say grisly and the little jar of very mild hot sauce on the side was too safe for my taste. So far, so bland.
The best dishes, according to my chums were the chicken skin Caesar, a crisp and tasty example of American cuisine, the octopus was tender and as we were coming to expect was sauced with something bland, not too calorific and slightly sweet. My monkfish was napped with a sauce containing smoked ‘popping’ barley. It was fun and the most daring it got. You get the picture. The excitement of The Chiltern Firehouse doesn’t come from the food, which is accomplished and simple. Puddings were light and there wasn’t a cheeseboard – the only nod to dairy was a melted cheese savoury wrapped in cabbage. It is all rather pleasant as far as it goes; but hey! You don’t get that thin and that beautiful by wolfing down a couple of platefuls of sliders. Check with the paps when you leave who has been in and boast about it the next day.
Jo Lynn @pryogi
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