For somewhere with such a fearsomely cool reputation, Chiltern Firehouse makes you feel cosy and comforted, even on light, long summer nights. With candles flickering on every table, panelled walls and plush velvet seating, the experience feels relaxed and familiar while retaining a high-end edge.
Staff are, as you’d expect, totally professional and able to reel off their favourite dishes while including notes on flavour nuances and drink-pairing suggestions in the same breath.
With its reputation as a star-spotting-hub par excellence, it feels only right to indulge in the image of an A-lister and dress up (and save up) to come here. The full experience comes at a hefty price, but an evening of multiple courses and cocktails is nearly guaranteed to leave you feeling spoiled, even if you’re footing the bill.
Snacks are undoubtedly the best part of any menu and Chiltern excels here, so much so that it’s hard to choose. Just to be safe, we ordered nearly one of everything. The famous crab doughnuts are filled with sweet white meat, savoury curry oil and a pinch of crispy fried shallots. Elsewhere there’s corn bread that’s cooked in bacon fat, pillowy and soft like a cake, served with a sour cream dip laced with crisp bacon pieces and topped, of course, with caviar; or there’s the ultimate crowd pleaser: Korean fried chicken (or KFC to its friends).
The meal proper continues in the same luxurious vein. Order some lobster tacos pepped up with green salsa, made with curious vegetal and bright tomatillo fruits, before abandoning yourself to the house special of Iberico pork. Cooked so that the meat still blushes, this is accompanied by two almond-based molé sauces: a simple pairing that conceals the complex flavours of Mexican spices.
To toast your ordering success there’s a wine list that galivants across the world and throws up bottles from Austria to Argentina (a dry, fruity 2017 Gruner Veltliner and an intense 2016 Malbec respectively). For those behaving themselves, we also enjoyed a ‘Lavender Fields’ mocktail that combined lavender and elderflower with lime and ginger ale for a tart take on the taste of Parma Violets – though really, this legendary party palace is not the place to abstain; excess on all fronts is the name of the game at Chiltz.