The Fire Station is one of the newest, buzziest restaurants on the Cheltenham food scene. I was very curious to see the renovation of the old fire station in the St James’ area taking shape and my word have they done a cracking job with the design and the bi-folding front doors are a fantastic feature! I came for dinner on a hot, summer’s eve and I certainly felt like I was in the place to be! The restaurant was full and the atmosphere was lively! I got the impression very early on the staff would never bother you to leave or rush you on (more on that later).
I’ve started my review on the positives, now for the bitter pills. I ordered Nachos to start.
A bowl of proud looking, home cooked (I gathered), golden chips, served with a pot of salsa and guacamole. The nachos had a miniscule hint of salt, which at first I didn’t mind because I assumed the flavour would come from the salsa and guacamole. I was soon left deflated when the accompaniments also lacked taste. I encountered large chunks of avocado in the guac so my nachos would snap off and get wedged in the pot, making it a mega fussy experience. I’m quite convinced the guac was just mashed avocado with some tomato, severely deprived of seasoning, lime juice or anything else. My avocado senses were telling me it was under ripe and therefore unpalatable. The same went for the salsa which was simply a pot of flavourless chopped tomato and onion.
For my main I had the lamb shish with smoked aubergine, yogurt, z’atar, all splodged onto a plate sized flatbread. The lamb shish was fair and the tastiest thing on the plate, although it just didn’t look appealing. Before I had even tried it I felt sad.
I scraped off the smoked aubergine mush, which to me had an unpleasant flavour and the consistency of cold, grey, mushed banana. The yogurt wasn’t to my taste either and I couldn’t see how this enhanced the flavour of the lamb in any way. This left bread and lamb. Oh joy. I didn’t know whether to knife and fork it or roll it up and use my hands. The virtue, however, was the side dish of awesome skin on fries. WELL SALTED YAY! Excitement built in my stomach as 1…2…and then 3 big bowls were placed on the table between 10 of us.
As lush as those fries were, it doesn’t work though to have a main which is pretty carb focused, like the one I had, and then a side dish of more simple carbs. We did have a second side dish of lettuce leaves, but no one cared. Survival mode had kicked in by this point and everyone dived for the calorific chips.
I can’t offer an opinion on the puddings because after two disappointing courses there was no way I was chancing 3 out of 3.
Back to the burning issue of service. We waited exactly 1 hour for our starters and once our plates had been taken away, we hung on another 50 minutes for our mains, asking twice for an ETA. The time it took the waiter to serve our dishes was awkwardly lengthy and he couldn’t access the end of our table because the restaurant was so full, so we had to pass the plates to our friends at the far end.
Sadly, I do wonder if the staff avoided customers because they knew what might be coming. On the night we arrived it was very difficult to get the attention of the staff unless you stood up and grabbed one.
If you have to come here order the pork and chorizo burger with fries because from feedback that seems to be a safe option. I would visit the bar for drink if a friend of mine suggested it, but I wouldn’t come back for food when we’re lucky enough to have such a vast choice in Cheltenham.