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Chiltern Firehouse: The Hottest Ticket in Town

Chiltern Firehouse: The Hottest Ticket in Town

Image Courtesy of Cheylene, flickr. com

Image Courtesy of Cheylene, flickr. com

We’ve all read about it, seen the pap pics and tried desperately to book a table for dinner but why is Chiltern Firehouse so hot right now?  Is it just public relations puff or is there real substance behind this stylish new restaurant?  Allow me to give you the run down…

The Venue

Chiltern

Image Courtesy of Modern Luxury, flickr. com

Image Courtesy of Modern Luxury, flickr. com

Firehouse is a cool new hotel/restaurant in London’s Marylebone which occupies the building of an old fire station.  It is the brainchild of hotelier Andre Balazs and is now part of his restaurant portfolio that owns glamorous Chateau Marmont in Hollywood and the Mercer hotel in New York. Originally one of London’s first purpose-built fire stations, the Grade II listed gothic Victorian building has been transformed into a swanky New York-style brasserie with high ceilings, hanging light fittings, large mirrors and a busy open kitchen. Guests are greeted by attractive top-hatted doormen and escorted through a pretty garden courtyard to their tables.

A-List Diners

Since opening on 20th February 2014, the restaurant has been awash with A-list diners including Simon Cowell, David Beckham, Kate Moss, Adele, Bill Clinton, Bradley Cooper and Orlando Bloom.

The publicity drive has been incredible and there is clearly a savvy PR agency behind the launch which seems to be going from strength to strength.  Chiltern Firehouse is THE place to have dinner in London…even David Cameron paid the place a visit last week!

Media coverage may be coming through thick and fast but eventually the hype will die down and it will be interesting to see what strategy their PR consultants implement to keep the buzz and popularity alive.

Image Courtesy of David, flickr. com

Image Courtesy of David, flickr. com

The Menu

Nuno Mendes, formerly of Viajante, has created an American inspired menu with dishes including chargrilled Iberico pork, cornbread, fried chicken, crab-stuffed doughnuts, Firehouse Ceasar Salad and blackened salmon with sea kale and trout roe.  Mains start from around £25 per person but you’ll pay close to £40 for a steak.  Wine starts from around £19 per bottle so, between friends, it’s not too balance breaking, especially if you’re rubbing shoulders with Nick Grimshaw and Rita Ora!

Reviews have been mixed (more on the positive side) but this is a risk any restaurant takes when inviting journalists to critique their food.  From what I can see, there has not been a review that warrants any kind of crisis PR support and let’s hope that remains the case!

Balazs seems to have struck gold here with the balance of tasty and stylish dishes that can be enjoyed at fairly reasonable prices.

Exclusive

Tom Parker-Bowles recently reviewed the restaurant and described it as ‘hotter than the surface of the Sun, where even God would have to wait for a table’.  With that in mind, you may struggle to get a table but if you are lucky enough to nab a seat at this glorious new restaurant, I suspect it will be worth the wait!

www.chilternfirehouse.com

Sun expose on Pizza Express’ halal chicken highlights a PR opportunity missed

Today the Sun reported an exclusive story revealing that all of Pizza Express’ chicken was halal. For those who are not aware, this means that the chicken is killed in line with strict Islamic law, allowing Muslim customers to eat it. For the vast majority of those reading, I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Ok, cool.’

The Sun then goes on to state, ‘But diners are not warned in advance the chicken they will be eating is halal. There is no mention of it on menus and staff only tell customers if they ask.’ Again for me, this totally misses the point – halal chicken tastes the same as non-halal and as such the killing method is irrelevant.

Regardless of general views of the credibility of the story what it does highlight is that Pizza Express may have actually missed the boat with PR coverage here, and in turn may be losing out on custom.

Why weren't Pizza Express shouting about their halal chicken?

Why weren’t Pizza Express shouting about their halal chicken?

I was already aware that all the chicken used on Pizza Express’ pizzas was halal – something I found out after a Muslim friend suggested we eat there one evening – but I would bet the vast majority of the British public did not know this to be the case…until today.

We live in a world of political correctness where people are often nervous to make any comments regarding race or religion, but I think it’s fair to say that openly stating that your chicken is halal is not going to dissuade customers.

Pizza Express’ business model is reliant on repeat customer and I just can’t envisage someone turning their back on a Pollo Pesto due to how the chicken is prepared. ‘Sorry darling, but this is halal, we’d better leave…I hear Chicken Cottage does a varied menu…let’s try there.’

Multiculturalism is something to be proud of, to be celebrated, it baffles me that Pizza Express aren’t openly saying all their chicken is halal. If more people can enjoy their food it’s a good thing for both the customer and their bottom line – a textbook win-win.

As we move into a world where variety and compromise become increasingly important in terms of shopper needs (think vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), why on earth would Pizza Express not celebrate a measure which opens up their offering to a wider and growing demographic of the UK population?

Ironically a story which was set to do them some damage could well do more than anything they’ve done proactively to raise awareness of their halal chicken. It’s strange how these things can work.

Let’s hope this is more than a flash in a woodstove oven and that the story will encourage more retailers to be on the front foot with regards to menu transparency in future.