RESTAURANT PICK!

CHILTERN FIREHOUSE
MODERN AMERICAN
London's burning. Not literally, obviously-no one wants to return to the bad old days of 1666-but at Chiltern Firehouse, cool-cat hotelier Andre Balazs's new venture. In its restaurant's first two months, the impossibility of getting a reservation was matched only by the lack of coherent information on its website. Well, at least it gave you the adress.
 Go through the gate, past the doorman and through the enchanted garden-which is going to be heaven on summer nights-and a Brazilian Asthon Kutcher-lookalike greeter laconically opens the door. Inside, an army of jacketed managers and staff is racing around. 'It's all flames and beards here,' says manager David, ex-Scott's, nodding towards the openkitchen as he seats us. And yes, there are flames leaping, and lots of bearded cooks, and headchef Nuno Mendes-lured from his Shoreditch hidey-hole Viajante by Mr Balazs-is sweet and smiling at the stove despite the madness and mayhem. 
But you still wouldn't call Firehouse macho. Not with these all-girl tables, Persian rugs on slate-tile floors and people queuing three deep at the bar for a Quick One Before Dinner. The menu is smallish but well  balanced: stake tartare or grilled octopus to start, perhaps followed by roast chicken or slow-roasted short rib. Some of it-the beef fillet with chimichurri, for instance-is great, even though portions, for the money are a little stringy.
 But hey-who said this was about the food? The scene at the Firehouse is indisputably the hottest in London. An old ladder shed has been turned into a very desirable coctail bar, and a Narnia-like secret door at the back of the deco-y loos opens onto a smokers'terrace, which is seriously cool (especially if you smoke).





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