The UK's first outpost by hippest of hoteliers André Balazs, luxurious-but-louche city stay Chiltern Firehouse is a siren call to cocktail-drinkers, dandy diners and lovers of London. The ravishingly revived red-brick fire station houses a Deco-twisted take on Victoriana, with a decadent bar, Nuño Mendes restaurant and staff so glamorous they could be mistaken for celebrity guests.
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A welcome bottle of Salice Salentino or Grenache Blanc in the room on arrival
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Luggage storage, entry to the nearby gym and free cocktails are offered if your room’s not ready.
Double rooms from £879.38, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates include a Continental breakfast of fresh pastries, fruits, juices, teas and coffee.
Try time travel: spot the ornate, angular, bottle-green Swiss timepiece in reception.
At the hotel
Courtyard, wine cellar, DJ decks, secret smoking lounge, WiFi throughout. In rooms: Apple TV, sound dock, working fireplaces, extensive minibar, coffee machine, bespoke bath goodies and soft fluffy bathrobes and slippers.
Our favourite rooms
Designed to feel like a guest room in an elegant private home, each Deco-detailed bedroom has hand-picked art, vintage photos and a smattering of idiosyncratic quirks. Bathrooms are decadent, with roll-top baths, walk-in rain showers, Hollywood mirror lights and lashings of chrome and marble. Some have shared access to a terrace. The Firehouse Suite is a super-spacious one-bedroom suite with loads of built-in wardrobes, a slick cocktail cabinet, dining area and separate toilet – ideal for entertaining or small drinks parties, it also has views over the courtyard garden below.
Vinyl and sheet music, for playing in the bar during after-hours shenanigans (there's a late-night DJ in the bar Wednesday–Sunday, and an old black Joanna to tinkle when it's quiet).
Smokers will enjoy finding their way 'through the looking glass' in the loos to a secret outdoor smoking space. All guests are welcome to attend the talks, screenings and other cultural happenings the hotel hosts.
A horseshoe booth in the corner has as its centrepiece the Grade I-listed brass fireman's pole: see how long you can eat around it without getting the urge to slide. Otherwise, get a seat near the action in the kitchen.
Upscale but edgy, to compete with staff's enviable wardrobe of Emilia Wickstead and J Crew tailoring.
The Firehouse restaurant – nightly scene of celebrity one-upmanship – is a brasserie meets Victorian factory affair, with a gleaming, brass-bolted extract hood, beneath which Nuno Mendes' many-handed army turns out restrained Mediterranean-flavoured menus (those crab donuts; monkfish cooked over pine, chargrilled Iberico pork). Keep your eyes peeled for the novelty cruet sets: porcelain pepper-pouring pugs and tabletop terriers appear come dinnertime.
In the Ladder Shed bar – a colonial lounge cum conservatory affair – plants trail from ceiling-suspended baskets and spring from weighty pots. Plant yourself on one of the emerald-green velvet chaises or deep bronze armchairs, or pull up a cane-backed stool at the sunken marble bar, where the mixologists' toolkit glints as prettily as a chandelier. Phials of house-made oil and extracts sitting on the bar give it the air of an apothecary: try the 'Hellfire Bitters' that spike jalapeno-laced signature cocktail Playing with Fire, or plump for a classic Negroni or champagne cocktail.
You can order breakfast from 7am to 10.30am (8am to 11am on weekends), lunch until 4pm, dinner until 11pm and drinks until you’ve stopped caring what the time is.
Down a surprisingly quiet thoroughfare beyond Baker Street and amid Marylebone's best boutiques, bistros and design showrooms, Chiltern Firehouse has a fantastic central London location.
London Heathrow is, traffic permitting, less than an hour’s drive away, though Gatwick, Stansted or City airports are all easily accessible.
Nearest Tube stations are Baker Street to your north, or Bond Street to your south. Overland trains to the Chilterns and the West Midlands run from nearby London Marylebone; London Paddington trains connect you cross-country; Kings Cross trains will take you north and the Eurostar runs from St Pancras.
Driving (and parking) in London can be a headache: why bother when taxis are plentiful, Tubes are practical and walking is pleasant?
Worth getting out of bed for
A short swagger from Marylebone's stylish shops and elegant eateries, Chiltern Firehouse is perfectly placed for capital forays. Needless to say, there's plenty to do, see and explore in this prime patch of London.
Head east to the sophisticated distractions of Marylebone High Street; west for Baker Street's low-key buzz; north for Regent's Park, and south for Oxford Street and Mayfair's fashionable thoroughfares. A few steps along Chiltern Street, there are little cafés and quirky boutiques (including a woodwind workshop, should your oboe need attention).
Don your deerstalker and sniff out the Sherlock Holmes museum (+44 (0)207 224 3688) – at 221b Baker Street, naturally – for some detective work, or follow the call of the wild to London Zoo (+44 (0)207 449 6200), a short stroll north through the park. Soak up some interiors inspiration at the Wallace Collection (+44 (0)207 563 9500) where five centuries worth of art, arms and accoutrements fill an historic Manchester Square townhouse.
For some pre- or post-shopping spree sustenance, the Grazing Goat (+44 (0)207 724 7243) is within walking distance and serves modern British gastropub fare. If you’d prefer to get down ‘n’ dirty, cult (m)eatery MEATliquor (+44 (0)207 224 4239) does burgers, chicken wings and various cheese-laced diet-busters a few streets away.
Few would consider leaving the Firehouse at night but if you do, amble down Baker Street and you’ll find Galvin’s Bistrot de Luxe (+44 (0)207 935 4007), home of renowned French cuisine from award-winning brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin. Fancy a curry? Trishna (+44 (0)207 935 5624), on nearby Blandford Street, does Michelin-starred South Indian cuisine, using plenty of British seafood. If you prefer a bit of ceremony, Roka (+44 (0)207 580 6464), a modern Japanese on Charlotte Street, is dominated by a central robata grill where meat, fish and vegetables are prepared in full tempting view.
After a week spent exploring the countryside we’d finally found ourselves back in London.
I’d heard stories about the famed Chiltern Firehouse from friends and colleagues who’d been lucky enough to spend a few nights upstairs in one of its 26 fireplace-equipped rooms. Having stayed at Andre Balazs’ three other properties, I was determined to finally check the Firehouse off my list.
We dropped the car at Heathrow and headed straight to the hotel around noon. I’d booked a Mews Loft for two nights, one of the spacious suites on the mezzanine levels of what used to Marylebone’s actual firehouse.
We were a bit early for our room so we left our bags with the porter and headed out. The hotel is conveniently located on a quiet street across from the Monocle cafe, a magazine shop, the Magnum gallery and a few quaint little boutiques well worth popping into.
It was easy to spend a few hours wandering around and we returned later that afternoon to rest up for the evening. It was Mrs Smith’s birthday and we’d arranged to have some friends join us for dinner and drinks at the hotel’s restaurant and bar.
We were delighted to find that our room had been upgraded to a Firehouse Loft, one of the larger suites overlooking Chiltern Street with a wall of windows and plenty of natural light. As we stepped into the lift I immediately noticed the details that Mr Balazs had, without a doubt, carefully curated himself: warm light fixtures, freestanding ornate wall mirrors, blue velvet carpeting… Even the room keys are luxurious: made from heavy brass and attached to velveteen tassels. (Reception will kindly inform you that it’s recommended you drop these at the desk each time you leave the hotel as it’s a touch impractical to carry them round London.)
Our room was sublime; more akin to the stylish Sixties home of Michael Caine’s Alfie than a typical hotel suite. A claw-footed bathtub, marble countertops, plush velvet sofas and a working fireplace in both the living room and bedroom were just some of its memorable details. (And again, I must note that the lighting was magnificent, mood-setting and warm – I was unable to find a single recessed light anywhere in the entire building).
I suggested we cancel our plans and spend the next two days in a set of soft oversized bathrobes ordering room service but Mrs Smith insisted we make the most of our evening.
We headed down to dinner at the restaurant, once referred to as ‘Hotter than the surface of the sun. I reckon even God would have to wait for a table’ by critic Tom Parker Bowles. The room was swarming with a beautiful crowd and it was easy to see why the restaurant had earned such a reputation. Luckily we’d booked well in advance and the hotel had made sure to confirm our table earlier that afternoon.
We were seated quickly in a booth and ordered a bottle of champagne, some steak tartare and galician octopus to start. We devoured everything quickly and ordered a round of martinis, spiced hot smoked salmon, grilled Welsh lamb rump, and a confit of Cornish cod. To be fair, we were eager to move on to cocktails in the lobby bar but the meal was a memorable one and that lamb rump truly exceeded our expectations.
Mrs Smith was delighted with her Firehouse mac ‘n’ cheese that came with a birthday candle on top and a round of singing from our waiter and the tables nearby. A few martinis later we found ourselves down the hall at a table nestled behind the DJ who was spinning a sped up version of Soul Kitchen by the Doors at top volume. We danced, we drank, we ordered deviled eggs and cornbread when we got peckish again, and at some point we stumbled upstairs to our room (according to a grinning bartender we passed in the lobby at checkout).
We rose at noon the following morning which was when Mrs Smith accepted the idea of staying in bed and ordering room service for the remainder of our trip. An order of eggs benedict, buttermilk pancakes and freshly baked croissants arrived and were soon demolished.
We lit the fire, put on a movie and were not disturbed until checkout. As we headed to Heathrow to catch our flight home I asked Mrs Smith if she thought we’d attempt to venture outside a bit more the next time we stayed. Highly unlikely, we agreed. This is no firehouse to be making hurried exits from.