squaremeal.co.uk | 33
But there's substantial depth behind the
glossy surfaces. The kitchen is fronted by red-hot
Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes, though fans of
the trailblazing modern cuisine he pioneered at
Viajante may be disappointed: the food here is more ingredients-led,
with a strong American accent, reecting the 16 years Mendes spent
in the States working with the likes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten
and Wolfgang Puck (of Cut fame). Caesar salad with crisp chicken
skin typies the approach: a ubiquitous classic that suddenly seems
essential again, thanks to its daring new crunch.
Elsewhere, sea trout crudo with yellow mole sauce and coriander is
a spanking-fresh spin on ceviche, while meaty grilled octopus stands
up to its accompanying aubergine and mushrooms. To follow, we
preferred the straightforward avours of char-grilled Ibérico pork with
roast garlic and lemon to the sweetness of maple-glazed salmon with
crispy skin and beet risotto.
There's also a small-but-perfect bar, where appetite-spiking
vermouth cocktails are partnered by knockout mini bites such as the
moreish cornbread ngers slathered with chipotle-maple butter.
Charming sta deliver smooth-as-silk service and
prove they are far more than a cast of pretty faces;
many are recognisable from senior positions at such
customer-focused exemplars as The Ritz and Le Caprice.
There are plans to open for lunch later in the spring, though as we
went to press the hotel wouldn't be drawn on the subject.
If you don't mind what time you eat, there are early and late
tables for walk-ins, while weekend brunch oers an easier and more
aordable way in. But persevere for a dinner booking: like the cream
of our BMW Best New Restaurant winners, this is somewhere that is
going to stay hot for much longer than six months.
KEY TO REVIEWS Prices are based on a two-course dinner (starter and main)
for one, including half a bottle of house wine, coffee, cover charge, service and
vegetables. Square Meal stars are awarded to favourite restaurants based on
the overall experience. Two and three stars are given (more selectively) to places
that truly capture the zeitgeist and bear comparison with the best in the world.
THE LAST WORD Too hot to handle: Chiltern Firehouse has both style and substance to burn
With an emphasis on France, and then
equal weighting between Old and New
Worlds, this pleases traditional and
adventurous wine drinkers alike, with
a separate list of by-the-glass options
appearing with a selection of cocktails.
BEST BUY Bodega Vega del Rayo, Rioja
Reserva 2009, Rioja DOCa, £45.