Fireworks Urban Kitchen, JW Marriott Absheron, Baku
Tel,: (012) 499 8822 www.marriott.com
The evening started well. “Bond” he said, shaking hands “Stephen Bond. I am the new restaurant manager here at Fireworks. Welcome!” (In fact, he is the director, no less.) Then he led us to our table. Judging by his looks, accent and smooth demeanor, he could well be in Her Majesty’s Secret Service but, as it turns out, he has come to Baku straight from running the restaurants at Old Trafford, Manchester United Football Club’s Theatre of Dreams. A pretty good catch for the Marriott and for diners in Baku, then!
Fireworks Urban Kitchen is certainly a very good-looking restaurant. Warm, light coloured wood combined with leather and extremely cleverly designed muted lighting, much of it red, give the place an elegant but relaxed atmosphere. Equally cleverly designed room dividers throughout the restaurant give the impression of intimacy and wooden structures on the ceiling look attractive as well as, no doubt, creating effective acoustic barriers to excessive noise. It’s all quietly sleek and chic in a classily understated way. Has Q been at work here, I wonder?
The staff are eerily well trained. They greet guests by name when they enter, clearly having been briefed on the table reservation. They are very polite and unobtrusive but always there when you need them and they smile! One could almost assume they had a micro chip imbedded in them, if they weren’t as warm and natural as you and I.
Other things impressed too. The wine, we chose a Pinot Grigio, was perfectly chilled to exactly the right temperature. The wine glasses were those lovely big bulbous ones, the white plates and crockery came in interesting irregular shapes, the silverware was properly laid out, the wine list was presented on an iPad, the bread was deliciously warm and crusty and came with a slightly spicy spread, the chips were served in a mini cast iron ‘Staub’ cocotte dish which adhered magnetically to its wooden board underneath, offering childish clicking on, clicking off fun and once again, reminding of Q.
After three paragraphs of focus on the design and presentation of Fireworks, I guess you may now be impatient to hear about the food, right? Okay, here goes!
Mr. Bond who had been tirelessly going around all his diners, chatting here, pouring wine there, answering questions, serving food, giving personal attention to each and every one of his guests as though they were valued friends and VIPs, smiling, interested and engaged, presented the restaurant’s meat selection to us on a wooden board, explaining in detail the cuts, the provenance , the differences in taste, texture and flavour, as we perused the menu. Let’s make no bones about it, Fireworks is all about meat and the menu is a carnivore’s dream, offering all manner of different steaks, from Waggyu to Ribeye. There are some lamb dishes too and two fish dishes, seabass and salmon.
We chose as a starter seared sliced yellow fin tuna with palm hearts and kumqvat slices, which we shared. What an inspired combination! The tiny little kumqvat slices really gave the tuna an extra good taste. It was just wonderful. As a main course, I had a really good steak tartar with a quail’s egg, corn chips and sliced pickled gherkins with a separate order of the most gorgeous thick chunky potato chips with parmesan and truffle. They were in their skins and done to perfection and somehow they tasted so very potatoey in the yummiest possible way. The lovely husband, being all manly, had a Hanger steak and a separate order of seasonal vegetables. Now, not being much of a meat eater, let alone a steak eater, I didn’t have a clue what a hanger steak was but I looked it up on Wikipedia and this is what it said: ‘cut of beef steak prized for its flavor. Derived from the diaphragm of a steer or heifer, it typically weighs about 1.0 to 1.5 lb (450 to 675 g). In the past, it was sometimes known as “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale’. Aha, that’s why he enjoyed it so much! I had a small taste of it and I must say, it melted in the mouth. The seasonal vegetables was a colourful melee of mushrooms, peppers, courgettes, onions and tomatoes, very tasty and the perfect accompaniment to the steak.
The dessert list looked interesting with an unusual flavour selection of sorbets and a tempting sounding quince tart, to name a few, but of course, we couldn’t resist the cheesecake, although we were warned that it was extra large. Lordy lord, extra large doesn’t even come near it, it’s a complete small cheesecake of 11cms/4.5” diameter and 5cms/2” high!! Well, even we couldn’t be that piggy! A generous half came back home with us in a doggy bag (or piggy bag? I envisage the lovely husband pointing at me, telling restaurateurs “I have a micro pig at home, please wrap the surplus food”). The cheesecake is a very nice cheesecake indeed but it still doesn’t reach the dizzy deliciousness heights of the Baku Roasting Company’s cheesecake, the creamy tanginess of their filling, the crunchy crumbliness of their biscuit base. But you know what, size wise it’s just perfect to smack in someone’s face, although that would be a terrible waste. No, that wasn’t me speaking at all, that was my inner Blofeld, honest!
I had a most wonderful evening at Fireworks and although it isn’t cheap at AZN144 for two, including a bottle of Pinot Grigio at AZN49, two small bottles of water and the humongous cheesecake at AZN13 but no service charge, it was one of the top three restaurant experiences I have had in my 17 months in Baku, the other two being at Evde Amburan and Evde City when Reuben Gould, who has now left, was still the executive chef there.
We didn’t stay long enough to see whether Mr. Bond got into one of the 007 licence plated German Embassy cars with the Spy Who Loves Him or whether he tipped his bowler hat at Miss Moneypenny at the reception desk but one thing is clear, he is making a big success of this mission and M will be pleased. There’s no doubt that Dr.No will stay well away although Goldfinger and his entire family will most certainly make regular visits here. The question is, is Spectre to be expected?