Who: Owner Andre Balazs, Executive Chef Nuno Mendes
Where: Chiltern Street, Marylebone (nearest tube Baker Street)
Why: A-list status
It's hard to approach Chiltern Firehouse without baggage, mostly because it's principally a hotel, but even for those not checking in, few venues garnered a reputation quite as quickly, as widely and divisively as here. Opened in 2013, CF immediately became the eating hot-spot of the rich and famous and even though it's no longer the new-new thing, 'paps' can still be seen loitering outside the premises many an evening. Famously, David Cameron in 2014 took wife Samantha there and left via the back entrance (but still got papped) while more recently (May 2017), Orlando Bloom had, according to the Daily Mail, 'a night of incredible sex with with hot waitress Viviana Ross.' You get the idea.
But returning to the restaurant, from the very beginning, putting acclaimed chef Nuno Mendes in charge of the kitchen was an inspired choice. What's more, on my most recent visit, Nuno was there in the kitchen in chef's gear, as he was on the occasion of my first visit. Respect.
As I returned to restaurant eating following my break, I was intrigued to go there and, given the understandably expensive prices - brushing shoulders with Hollywood elites does not come cheap - I first went on my birthday in 2017 (while the blog itself remained on a break). I didn't see any stars that day, but there again, I once failed to recognise Cheryl Cole when I stood right next to her at an airport, but I really enjoyed CF as a restaurant.
What's most important in instances like this? Hard to say. But I wanted to eat everything on the menu. When the food came, it was as delicious as it sounded. The vibe in the restaurant was exciting and the staff were brilliant, never making me feel like a second class citizen because my last name wasn't Pitt. Admittedly, you're going to have to swallow the price - think £18 for a glass of champagne, yet I have chosen to return several times, usually when I want to go somewhere 'special' and don't mind spending the extra in pursuit of that.
A venue like Chiltern Firehouse invites each of us to entertain a narrative that is so much more than the food and the 'normal' expectation that we each have when heading out to even a top-end restaurant, at least until you've tried it. On that basis, describing the brilliance of the foie gras tarte in this blog post seems fairly pointless. But I don't go there to spot celebrities (I have never spotted one yet tbh), I go there because I like it, which is surely the best reason for going anywhere.