Firecracker is a fantastic little hideaway that brings a slice of Oriental culture to Horseferry Road. Including karaoke...
Sitting in the heart of Westminster, you can all too easily miss the entrance to Firecracker as all there is to denote its existence is a glass door with red writing, which certainly adds to the intrigue as you descend the ensuing stairs. Stepping into a dimly lit room replete with low hanging light shades and minimalist, dark tables and chairs, accents of red give the room a bit more energy and warmth. Little tea light candles sit on each table, a few faux-Chinese firecrackers hang down to the floor and Jenga-like dark wooden partitions separate tables lined up against the wall. Three attractive karaoke rooms are also available for private hire, but don't worry - they boast soundproof doors and windows to protect other diners’ ears and, indeed, one's dignity.
A lively destination venue for the nearby Burberry and Channel 4 crowd, Firecracker attracts an upmarket and affluent mix, without venturing into the realms of pretension or snootiness. The staff are extremely attentive, quick to replace dropped napkins or chopsticks and to top up glasses. Chilled out house music plays softly in the background, helping the relaxed, easy-going vibe.
Keep an eye out for the dishes with stars by them - they're recommended for a reason. The lobster salad is simple but utterly delicious, with a mixed-leaf salad surrounded by meaty chunks of fresh lobster, dressed in a soy and rapeseed dressing. The crispy squid with spicy salt (£5.50) has a wonderfully light crisp batter and a perfect hint of heat, and the seafood fried rice (£10) arrives wrapped in a soft egg nest and is filled with juicy prawns and squid - it's just a shame that the XO sauce (a Guangdong favourite) doesn't seem to add a great deal to the dish.
Despite the pan-fried duck breast (£16.50) being ever so slightly dry in the middle, it makes a great dish with the sweet teriyaki sauce offering moisture and crunchy Chinese broccoli texture. The absolute winner, though, is the Wagyu bavette (£22.50). Unbelievably tender and succulent, the beef is slow-cooked and served with a well-balanced five spice jus. The Chilean sea bass (£23.50) is a traditional Chinese dish cooked to perfection, with the beautiful white, flaky fillet sitting in a ginger and spring onion soy sauce. The tofu with enoki mushrooms (£9.80) is a great vegetable hotpot, with really fresh and silky tofu lightly fried and tossed with stringy enoki mushrooms in a tasty toban sauce.
For dessert, a twist on the traditional works well, with a ginger crème brulee (£5.50) and a green tea crème brulee (£5.50) being particularly good. There's enough boldness of flavour from both the ginger and the green tea in each, and the accompanying apple sorbet offers a pleasing little refresher for the palate.
Expect a very decent drinks menu with a good amount of variety. If you're going down the cocktail route, then the Firecracker Royale (£8) is a little on the sweeter side than a usual Kir Royale but still very drinkable nonetheless. The Rum Bob (£7) tastes of the summer, with rum and orange, pineapple and lemon juice working together to create a zesty tipple. Wines include a perfectly decent house - the Mendoza Heights sauvignon blanc (£17/bottle) is a pleasant drop that pairs well with most of the dishes, including even the spicier ones.
The Last Word
Firecracker manages to feel contemporary without losing the traditional, authentic elements that make Chinese dining so popular. Praise be, then, to all that soundproofing.