It always feels like an occasion to have dinner at the Chiltern Firehouse in London. Not least because you usually have to make a reservation a few months in advance. Our latest visit, for Valentine’s Day, was no different; I booked a table in December!
Unlike some places, the dining experience lives up to the hype. As you are welcomed in off the street, you enter a leafy passageway. Strings of miniature lanterns twinkle brightly among the foliage while chattering guests in the garden are shielded from view. As you finally enter the firehouse you are transported, Narnia-like, though a red curtain to somewhere quite special.
After enjoying a martini at the bar – dry vodka, with an olive – we were seated by the fireman’s pole. Although the pole is no longer in use, it’s quite a good spot to sit with a view straight into the open kitchen, where Nuno Mendes and team busied themselves all evening. I love restaurants with open kitchens, particularly when you can sit and watch the pros do what they do best.
How to make an easy bordelaise sauce
After a scallop and seaweed starter, I enjoyed the Hereford beef fillet with onion petals and bone marrow bordelaise, with a side of fries. Steak is usually quite a safe choice so I tend to avoid it, but this was absolutely delicious and made all the more interesting by the bone marrow bordelaise.
Unless you have a good butcher, bone marrow can be quite hard to get hold off, so I’ve taken it out of my version. I’ve also swapped the demi-glace, that you usually use as a base for the easy bordelaise sauce, with beef stock which is much easier to get your hands on. This dish is quite light so you’ll likely need a carby side dish. I’d suggest partnering it with creamed potato, potato dauphinoise or some yummy grains.
A simple recipe for an easy bordelaise sauce and beef fillet, inspired by the Chiltern Firehouse in London, UK.
- 2 thick-cut fillet steaks
- 500 ml of beef stock
- 250 ml of red wine
- A grind of black pepper
- A sprig of fresh thyme
- 3 small onions
- Salted butter
- 2 white mushrooms
- A sprinkling of rocket leaves
- 1 carrot
Peel two small onions and place in a fan-assisted oven, pre-heated to 180 degree Celsius. Cook until soft for about 25-30 minutes, turning regularly. If you're having potato dauphinoise as a side dish, you can cook this at the same time.
Dice a small onion and place into a thick-bottomed saucepan with a knob of butter. Fry for about five minutes over a low heat, until softened. Keep an eye on the pan and stir regularly as the onion can burn quickly.
Remove the leaves from the fresh thyme and throw away the stem. Cut the carrot and mushroom into 1/2 cm thick slices and put to one side. You'll need these later!
Add the red wine, black pepper and thyme leaves to the saucepan and continue to simmer over a low heat for 5-10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced. Add the beef stock and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until you are left with a thick jus. Keep warm over a very low heat until needed.
In another saucepan, boil the sliced carrot for about 10 minutes, before pouring away the liquid. If you have some vegetable stock to hand, this can be a great way to add some extra flavour.
In a frying pan, add a knob of butter and place over a medium-high heat. Add the fillet steak, turning regularly for about 8-10 minutes, depending on taste. Luxuriously thick cut steaks of 1-1.5 inches are best for this indulgent dish.
Once the steak is cooked, remove from the pan and let it rest momentarily. Place the sliced mushroom into the pan and fry briefly for about 30 seconds per side.
Serve the steak, with the carrots, mushroom and onion, and a side dish of your choice. Add a splash of the bordelaise sauce and a sprinkling of peppery rocket leaves for a pop of colour and enjoy!