I live by a simple mantra on Sundays. Brunch.
Seeing as last Sunday was actually my last in London for the year as I’m off to India this week, I was keen to make it a good one.
It couldn’t have worked out better that a few friends sprung a surprise visit into town, as the best part about having friends in from overseas is that every day is a foodie day while they’re here!
Wanting to spend the afternoon in cosy Marylebone village, the cobbled courtyard at Chiltern Firehouse seemed the perfect place for us to set upon our day…
The iconic, gothic Victorian site has been a cornerstone of the village ever since its days as one of London’s first purpose-built fire stations.
Decommissioned in 2005, it was bought over by André Balazs (the American hotelier behind the achingly glamorous Chateau Marmont), famously undergoing a mammoth restoration, renovation and expansion to transform into the the ultimate celebrity playground… For Naomi Campbell, Chiltern feels like being in her extended living room – “When I walk around, no one stops me to say, ‘Oh my god, you are such and such.’ Here I feel safe. And I bump into people who I haven’t seen in London for years.”
But while the decor is stylishly elegant and the crowd über-glam, not to mention jaw-droppingly gorgeous, the vibe is relaxed, intimate and comfortable.
Taking advantage of the freakishly mild December weather, we decided to sit outside in the whimsical garden courtyard amongst potted plants and low hanging, twinkling lanterns…
… and were lucky enough to ensnare that most coveted space, facing the flickering flames.
We had no trouble settling in right away, cocooned within snug blankets to keep us warm, as we dived into the menu. In the capable hands of Michelin-starred chef Nuno Mendes, we found that brunch options feature a delightful mix of European-esque dishes and American classics.
We started with a roast heritage carrots salad – a vibrant affair starring a creamy tahini dressing that artfully balanced the bitterness of the charred leaves, while enhancing the flavours of the fresh, crunchy carrots. A scattering of roasted peanuts elevated the nuttiness of it all.
The burrata was a thing of beauty too. It arrived swimming in a pool of leek oil, leek hearts and chestnuts and an indulgent sprinkling of Wiltshire truffles on top.
The non veggie amongst us, Anum, had high praise for the Caesar salad as well. A discerning foodie to boot, she often orders this dish but rarely finds that it’s done right.
At Chiltern though, she declared the flavours to be in perfect harmony thanks to just the right level of dressing, while the crispness of the chicken skin and parmesan were a moreish touch.
Anum also plumped for fresh oysters from the oyster cart at the entrance of the courtyard, which she found to be of wonderfully fresh quality.
But it wouldn’t be brunch without cocktails or eggs.
Seeing as Avni and I were celebrating our fourth London reunion of the year, cocktails of the champagne variety were called for. We opted for a hibiscus-strawberry concoction, a light and refreshing choice to wash down our eats.
As for the eggs, I went for my favourite – eggs florentine. At Chiltern, these are served with heirloom tomatoes and spinach on a toasted cheese muffin… divine decadence. The sunny yellow, richly creamy hollandaise sauce liberally doused over, was the best I’ve had in a long while.
Since I prefer my eggs runny, I was also delighted by the serious #yolkporn that oozed with a light cut…
But the true lynchpin of a good, nay – great brunch, are the pancakes of course and Chiltern did not disappoint in this regard, serving up soft, melt-in your mouth buttermilk pancakes smothered with blueberries, crème fraîche and maple syrup.
A crackling fire; #stacksonstacks of pancakes; and a surprise visit from my Bombay buddy… definitely the best kind of Sunday scenes in my books!
Happily full, we slipped out into the afternoon for a brisk walk in a bid to work-up our appetites, as the foodie extravaganza was set to continue with a festive afternoon tea at the Connaught Hotel…
Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street,Marylebone, London W1U 7PA