A Contemporary Bar With 'Relaxed' Dining
Anne Flaherty reviews No.197 Chiswick Fire Station
When it was announced that hospitality company Darwin & Wallace was planning to take over the All Bar One site in Chiswick, many people expressed surprise- they had never heard of the group. Launched only four years ago, they are rapidly expanding and by next year plan to have nine sites in affluent areas of London, including the Battersea Power Station.
The Chiswick bar/restaurant opened to great fanfare two months ago and since then has been a magnet for the beautiful people of W4. The concept is relaxed all-day dining and drinking, and the venue seems to be proving to be a popular attraction. When I arrived at 6.30 one weeknight recently the place was about half full, and some people had opted to sit outside at the pavement tables for drinks.
The well-designed interior is spacious and appealing. There are cosy sofas for couple tete-a-tetes, large round table for groups or families, and banquettes along one wall, suitable for four people. The ambiance was good - the music was not too loud- and light streamed in from a huge skylight. Stripped wood gave a feeling of the seaside, and there were quirky elements, such as the giant cacti. The bar is fabulous and would be a very appealing spot for a cocktail. There is a very attractive courtyard with tables and this is open until 7pm.
We were greeted by the manager Damien, and seated at a table close to the open-plan kitchen. He then took us through the menu and talked about the Darwin & Wallace philosophy for their new Chiswick eatery, which is to be a bar with all-day casual dining. You can come for a coffee with the newspaper, bring your dog, have breakfast, or Sunday lunch and if you come primarily for a drink and get peckish, there are a variety of sharing or small plates.
My friend and I started the evening with two glasses of Prosecco while we had a look at the menu. My first impression was that it was fairly unimaginative. It's been described as "Antipodean-influenced food". Burgers, (including a veggie halloumi burger), Steaks and Rotisserie Chicken are offered alongside Chicken Caesar salad, 'wonky veg' Aubergine Curry, Club Sandwich, and a slow-roasted Beef Brisket. For fish lovers there is a choice of Mussels, Rainbow trout, or Sea bass.
The small and sharing plates seem more imaginative. Choices include Pigs Cheek and Black pudding croquettes, Sticky Beef tacos, various Crostini, Ginger Chicken cakes, and Homemade Fish cakes. I think a few of these might be a good option, as the starter portions are quite generous.
I opted for Grilled Chicken Skewers with Mint, Lime and Honey, which came served with ribboned courgette salad and a chargrilled lemon. The staff kindly toasted some gluten-free bread for me. A fairly robust portion of chicken came well cooked with a fresh, zesty dressing and the courgette salad gave a pleasing crunch. My friend opted for the Crispy Peppered Squid with coriander, chilli and spring onion. This was palatable but not memorable. I tried some and agreed.
For main courses my friend chose the Chicken and Ham, Leek and Tarragon Pie which came served with an unprepossessing salad consisting of half a head of lettuce, a bit of chilli and a dollop of buttermilk and blue cheese dressing dressing. She pronounced it satisfyingly tasty with the pastry well-cooked and a good balance of flavour from the tarragon sauce. However, she said it tasted a little oily. I'm not sure the iceberg lettuce on the side added anything to this dish.
I was tempted to have a seafood main course and opted for the Seabass, which came served with asparagus, artichoke, new potatoes and creme fraiche tartare. Lucky that the starter had been fairly substantial. I felt the piece of fish, though nicely cooked, was a little on the meagre side and I did mention this to the management.
The bar prides itself on its cocktails and selection of wines, craft and draught beers. If I were to come again I would certainly try one of its cocktails. Instead we drank a half bottle of Mamaku Sauvignon Blanc at £19 and had some sparkling water.
For dessert, we shared a grilled pineapple with agave syrup and passionfruit sorbet which was light and delicate, perfect for a finish.
I have heard some complaints about the tardy service at 197 Chiswick Fire Station. I can't say I had any major problems here. I found the staff very friendly, attentive and helpful.
There is also a children's menu and Sunday lunch offers Rotisserie Chicken w/ Spring cabbage, honey carrots, green beans and Yorkshire pudding , or Beer Braised Brisket of Beef w/ Yorkshire pudding, spring cabbage, honey carrots, green beans and horseradish sauce. Some people might find that menu fairly limited for a Sunday lunch though.
I think this will be a popular spot for Chiswickians. It is a good spot for an after-work drink, or for casual dining in groups or families, or for a date where you could cosy up on those sofas made for two. The bar is perfect for a cocktail and some sharing plates.
The owners wanted it to be "a sophisticated modern vision of a neighbourhood pub", but I think that it is rather more than that.
June 19, 2016