WANT TO JOIN Bill Clinton AND Kate Moss AT CHILTERN FIREHOUSE?
It's the hottest table in town, where the likes of Bono, Kevin Spacey, Cheryl Cole and David Cameron have been papped on the way out. How did the restaurant game the hype machine and what are the chances of getting a booking?
Even if you've never been, there's no escaping Chiltern Firehouse,London's newest and hottest eatery-cum-nightspot. Located in one of London's first purpose-built fire stations, nestled in a nightlife no-man's land between Marylebone High Street and Baker Street, it seems to be singlehandedly feeding the celebrity sections of the tabloid press, with headlines such as: "Lily Allen nearly flashes bum as she leaves Chiltern Firehouse ..." (the Mirror); "She likes to keep herself to herself, but even singer Adele couldn't resist the lure of trendy new haunt Chiltern Firehouse ..." (Daily Mail); "Another day, another star-studded reservation list at Chiltern Firehouse" (the Mirror, again); "Is there nowhere else? Lindsay Lohan rolls out of the Chiltern Firehouse again" (Entertainmentwise.com).
Is there nowhere else indeed? In the few brief months of its existence, the venue has been attracting names that will be familiar even to those who pretend to ignore the celebrity world: Bono. Samuel L Jackson. Courtney Love. David Beckham. Cheryl Cole. Kevin Spacey. Simon Cowell. Naomi Campbell. Chris Martin. Rita Ora. Aaron Paul. Michael McIntyre. Prince Harry's ex, Cressida Bonas (along with Princess Eugenie). David and Samantha Cameron. Even, in the words of celebrity gossip site Holy Moly, "Bill ACTUAL Clinton!"
However you look at it, that is an impressive guest list. But is the venue already becoming a victim of its own meteoric success? "I do think it's slightly tipped over the edge," says one fashion insider who prefers not to be named (they are, after all, still on the waiting list). "The celeb regulars have moved from being One Direction and David Beckham – great – to David Cameron and Gary Lineker – not so great. And besides, who can actually get a table anyway?"
Certainly not me. When I called up this week as an ordinary punter, the ever-so-polite woman taking bookings explained that … erm … Chiltern Firehouse was not taking bookings. Not for evenings, at least. "When's the earliest you think you will take bookings for?" I ask. "Not for the foreseeable." "Not for two or three months?" "Something like that. I'm really, really sorry." To be fair, she did sound very sorry.
And it's not as if its management has done anything wrong: if anything, it has done it a little too right.
"Look, it is a cool place, the decor is right, the food is right; it's not naff," says Sean O'Brien, managing director of AOB PR (whose roster has included both reality TV stars and luxury venues) and a former celebrity journalist. The "N" word – naff – is, of course, the one that everyone in this business is desperate to avoid. And the fashionable crowd that the Firehouse attracts is notoriously fickle in its loyalties. Remember hearing all this about the Met Bar? That's just a stone's throw down the road. The maître d' could almost shake hands with his former clientele as they traipse up the road to the next place to be and be seen.
GET A ROOM
If you’re not an A-Lister, you might struggle to book a stay at the Chiltern Firehouse (chilternfirehouse.com) until the hotel opens for public bookings. Other than the restaurant’s extreme popularity with A-listers, little is known about André Balazs’s latest venture, which is thought to be a higher end offering than his “Standard” US hotels. “I could easily spend the rest of my days in the private bar: a kind of Rick’s Café on a feast of Tropicana space dust,” says Melinda Stevens, editor of Condé Nast Traveller.