I suppose I should start with a confession – I was lucky enough to have won £120 towards my dinner in Square Meal’s ‘Be the Critic’ competition, so I didn’t pay the full bill, but also I’d like to think that didn’t influence my views either.
Aubaine is a small chain of restaurants. I went to the Mayfair branch in Dover Street for my prize; the staff, in particular Laura, were really helpful sorting out the arrangements and didn’t have any difficulty with my usual attempts to move the goalposts by turning a meal for 2 into a meal for 3 and also accommodating our late arrival thanks to traffic problems. That good experience with the team continued on arrival with everyone really polite, helpful and friendly – the service doesn’t have that ultimate polish that you get in the top London restaurants, but also it’s not burdened with the occasional snobbish distain that accompanies that.
The restaurant itself is long and narrow, with lots of pale, warm tones and jars full of highly coloured meringues and macaroons, which looked lovely, but strangely didn’t seem to feature on the menu. Table are quite close together, but we went on a cold Thursday night and it wasn’t packed out so that wasn’t a problem.
Food is surprisingly good – I must confess to having had relatively low expectations, mainly as it’s not somewhere that I’d normally think of going, but starters and desserts were as good as anywhere I’ve been recently – in fact both better than Koffmans, which is far more celebrated.
I started with artichoke soup with truffle, it arrived properly hot, which is always a pleasant surprise, was really thick and creamy with loads of warm flavours. I followed this with supreme of chicken with side dishes of spinach and French fries, the chicken was a little bit drier than I’d have ideally liked, but other than that everything was fine. Desserts were from a selection of cakes and pastries – one of those moments when you really want to have one of everything on offer, since they all looked fantastic and I love cake, but I settled on a raspberry tartlet, which was excellent, great pastry and really fresh flavours.
The bill, if I had been paying it in full, was £185 for 3 – which for 3 courses, water, service, a bottle of wine and 2 glasses of champagne in somewhere based in the heart of Mayfair seems pretty decent value.
I enjoyed it and will be going again, though I think that perhaps it would make a better lunch venue than an evening venue.
Thanks both Square Meal and Aubaine.