We’ve got some new neighbours in Chiswick and it’s great to see what they’ve done to the place. No 197 Fire Station is the fourth location opened by the independent bar group Darwin & Wallace, all in London towns with a village feel. In W4, they’ll feel right at home.
As the masonry on the front of the building suggests, there was a fire station on the site from 1891 until 1963 when it moved around the corner.
David Scheinmann artwork hangs from the chalky white walls while industrial looking bar stools, muted by a blue velvet are tucked underneath a dominating concrete bar. The interiors are a collaboration between two architects who’ve been working with the group’s founder for some years and they’ve done an excellent job.
Everywhere you look, there’s a fabulous design feature from the herringbone tiles on the floor to the industrial breeze block dividers. A projector hangs from the ceiling along with multi-level and wall lighting which helps to capture the mood at night. Fresh cut flowers and Wild West cacti add to soften and sharpen up blank canvases.
What they’ve managed to do is make the space large enough for groups but small enough for intimate dinners. A long communal dining table leads customers out to an outside terrace, although the fun ends at 7pm when the license does, for now.
So ends my love affair with the interior, let’s start with the food and drink offerings.
We sat at a square table in the back of the restaurant, nice and bright but not too much room for multiple dishes and glasses. The chunky Oak chairs are beautiful to look at but take their toll on a bony backside so after a while; a walk is in order.
The cocktail menu is quirky and has something for everyone. I’m afraid I got a little hooked on the Rhubarb and Cherry gin gimlet and the two I had were stunningly good.
Mr asked for a bottled pale ale but I fear the sunny weather ensured he was out-of-luck and so he went for a draught. No complaints there.
The manager here is the knowledgeable Jade and she tells us this is the third Monday since opening. What she failed to mention in our chat was the portions are huge. She took us through the varied menu which features everything from breakfast to brunch, sharing plates to full on platters.
Mr wasn’t feeling too hungry, plus he’s trying to be good so opted for a few starters. He chose the Fennel Salami, with a Chilli and Truffle ricotta crostini. Three pieces for £4.95, which on reflection were a bit much for one, and as they were billed probably better suited for sharing. Nonetheless, it was as billed and unremarkable.
He managed to polish off a portion of the crispy Peppered Squid (£7.95) with Coriander, spring onion & chilli. A light tempura batter covered bit-sized pieces of squid. Cooked well.
I had the Pigs Cheek and Black Pudding Croquettes (£7.50) three torpedoes full of meat, served with a very sweet apple compote. A splendid starter but plenty for two.
Mr moved on to a potted ham hock which was delicious (£7.50). Plenty of meat in a delicately flavoured crème fraiche, enough malty bread and a serious serving of seeded mustard and cornichons. Winner.
For my main it was a toss-up between the chicken, ham hock, leek and tarragon pie (£14.50), the Wonky Veg Aubergine Curry (£9.95) the chicken Kiev with French garlic beans (£14.50) or the No 197 House Burger (£10.95). I’d already been warned by Mr that I wasn’t to order a burger so that made my decision a little easier. As it was, I opted for the Beer Braised Brisket of Beef (£18.00) with onions and a sweet potato mash.
A large plate covered in bright orange fluffy mash was topped with a significant cut of brisket – enough for supper, breakfast and lunch. The beef fell away without prompt and the potato sweet, tempered by rich onion-heavy gravy. To be honest, I made sure I didn’t have a heavy lunch, in fact, I don’t think I did eat but even this beat me. That said, and before I could see the huge plate, I ordered a side of Truffle Macaroni Cheese (£4) and this didn’t disappoint. Cheese, cream and truffle oil, just the right amount, with a crunchy cheddar top. Perfection. You know when you’re full but you just can’t stop digging in your fork, yeah, that.
I not only let this review down but I let myself down. I couldn’t even squeeze in a dessert and I had my eye on the roast pineapple (£6.50). This beauty was I can only guess, caramelised with Agave Syrup and served with a passion fruit sorbet. Even my love of meringue didn’t push me over the edge. The Roulade No 197 (£6.50) will be ordered next time we eat their homemade meringue, raspberry, rhubarb and ginger cream.
Their Sunday roasts look pretty good, served from noon. Rotisserie Chicken (quarter, half or whole) and that delicious brisket on offer, all served with duck fat roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Kids are catered for too, not a massive choice but it’s the Mac and Cheese, Cheese Burger and Fries or Tempura Fish fingers and fries. With an ice cream sundae or fruit plate, it’s £7.50. Some of the mains are big enough to split for older children with a more adventurous palate.
If like me, you’re a big fan of restaurant sustainability, they don’t crow about it here but they’ve got a 2 star and are on their way to the highest rating of 3 stars.
We visited on a Monday night and it was packed, there’s definitely a small fire burning here but nothing this Fire Station hasn’t got under control.
I was a guest of No 197, which as ever, has no influence over my reviews.
No 197 Chiswick Fire Station, 197-199 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 2DR
Monday – Thursday: 9am to Midnight
Friday – Saturday: 9am to 1am
Sunday: 9am to 11pm