A year and a half ago, St Petersburg restaurateurs Madina Kazhimova and Anna Dolgushina made the 1,300-mile trip to London in search of a location for their first-ever UK venture. The pair were eventually seduced by a dinky, 46-seat venue at the north end of Poland Street in Soho, which is now the home of Firebird, a modern Mediterranean spot ready to knock your socks off.
To set the scene, the decor is inspired by the leafy, rustic courtyards of Italy, Spain and the like, so you’ll find golden-washed concrete walls, exposed brick, terracotta floor tiles, rattan chairs tucked under tables and greenery spilling from the ceiling. There are no beating rays overhead, but the sizzling, open-flame grill in the middle of the restaurant provides a somewhat balmy temperature.
Firebird’s flavour combinations and sheer finesse is a novel thing
While the concept of using quality British produce to create sun-kissed, Southern European dishes is fairly standard stuff these days, Firebird’s flavour combinations and sheer finesse is a novel thing. Let’s start with the chicken liver parfait choux buns: studded with pickled raisins and topped with chopped hazelnut and strands of parmesan, each spherical, paté-filled puff was indulgent yet light, silky but with crunch, savoury but with delightful pops of fruitiness. They were so damn moreish that I can’t stop thinking about them.
Charred on the grill, a butter-block-sized hunk of tender, salty halloumi smothered with honey and truffle was masterfully balanced without even a hint of squeakiness. Me and my partner argued over who got the bigger half, exactly as we did when trying to equally divide a plate of plump scallops – caramelised on the outside and fleshy on the inside – atop a mound of butter-laden mashed potato, sweet petit pois and fragrant, racing green dill oil. Hello, desert island dish.
The drinks are no afterthought at Firebird, either. Cocktails are fun twisted takes on classics – think Greek salad martini made with gin, vermouth, feta cheese and red pepper, and an Old Fashioned in the form of dark rum, baked banana and bitters. The wine list (put together by Dolgushina) focuses on independent, natural producers from all over Europe. Along with white from France and Germany, there’s red from Georgia and even fizz from Austria. Opt for a glass of dark pink ‘serious rosé’ from Abruzzo in Italy and you won’t be disappointed either. Yes, it would seem I’ve been seduced by this little spot on Poland Street too.
The vibe: European chic meets Soho cool.
The food: Smart, Mediterranean-inspired plates almost too good to share.
The drink: Playful cocktails alongside hand-picked natural wines.
Time Out tip: The savoury dishes shine here, so plump for an extra main instead of pudding. Still after a sweet finish? Order a glass of dessert wine.