Chiltern Firehouse, London

Author: Guy Dimond

The Chiltern Firehouse is the UK capital's hottest new hotel and restaurant.

André Balazs, the hotelier and restaurateur behind a string of chic properties, including Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, and The Mercer Hotel and The Standard East Village in New York, has opened his first hotel outside the US, in the heart of London's Marylebone.

Chiltern Firehouse was built in a grand Victorian-Gothic style in 1889 to house the crew and horse-drawn fire engines of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The fire station closed a decade ago, but during the past two years Balazs and his team have been converting it into London's newest boutique hotel.

The 26 suites feature fires in the bedrooms - coal-effect gas fires, though; not the sort that turn historic buildings into piles of cinders. Australian (and US, UK and EU) electricity sockets are standard. There's a lovely enclosed courtyard with outdoor terrace and dining tables where the carriages used to draw up; the watchtower has views across neighbouring rooftops.

Balazs has persuaded one of London's top chefs, Nuno Mendes, to relinquish his former restaurant, the Michelin-starred Viajante in Bethnal Green, and move to the West End. Mendes is known for his innovative and original dishes, which change daily to reflect seasonality. Bar snacks might include spring rolls coloured with beetroot but tasting of sorrel; entrées could be crisp chicken skin with parmesan. The main courses make use of a charcoal grill, though sous-vide equipment and a Big Green Egg barbecue are also on display in the open kitchen. Puddings are more whimsical, as seen in a panna cotta inspired by baked Alaska. Chiltern Firehouse is London's hottest restaurant right now, and booked months ahead.

Dinner for two with wine costs about $300. Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London. +44 (0)20 7073 7676.

Read more: Gourmet Traveller's insider's guide to London.

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