EATING OUT / Grievous bodily charm: Aubergine

Aubergine

11 Park Walk, London SW10 0AG. Tel: 071-352 3449.

Open Monday to Friday for lunch, Monday to Saturday for dinner. Set lunch pounds 18 per person,

dinner pounds 28. Prestige dinner pounds 36. All credit cards accepted.

LIFE for the restaurant critic can be hard. Hoping to have dinner at the , a highly-spoken-of French restaurant just off the Fulham Road, I rang to book a table for one of the two evenings I was in London. They were full on both nights. Not wanting to let you down, I booked a table for lunch. My wife being resolutely out of town, I had to choose a companion at extremely short notice, and invited a young Green person who recently enlisted my support in a campaign to try to stop a vastly enlarged A27 wrecking the peace of the Sussex Downs between Glynde and Firle.

The fact that she was very far from uncomely and listened to me wide-eyed throughout lunch, lips half parted, with the unwavering attention rarely accorded me by my immediate family was, I suppose, some consolation.

The is modern in design, fronted with dark glass and decorated in a pastel yellow, with what my environmentalist friend described as 'heavy duty air-conditioning'. The table was laid at the outset with large blueish Provencal-style plates bearing the name of the restaurant and a picture of two geese.

There was time to examine the menus: the main dinner menu has a limited choice of eight starters, eight main courses and eight puddings without specific prices and costs pounds 28; and the shorter lunch menu has two choices for each course and costs pounds 18, with the option of choosing your food from either. Then we then went down under a frontal attack of Maurice Chevalier Gallic charm.

The head waiter had, quite apart from ze sharmeeng notty highbrows fleekering hup and down, a way of pronouncing oil - 'oerl' - that would justify a trip from Ramsgate just to listen to it. He also wore an impeccable black suit and looked so 1,000 per cent competent you would trust him to land Concorde on a sixpence.

The lunch menu offered a salade St Jacques and ravioli de homard, the dinner menu every kind of treat. Starters included a vinaigrette of leeks and pressed lobster and a tortellini of crab with ginger in a veloute of chives; main courses offered pigeon 'poche grille', with a puree of swede and wild mushroom, jus madeira, and pot-roasted calves' sweetbreads with creamed watercress and a jus of ceps. Having softened us up with the barrage of charm, the head waiter struck home. He urged me to start with the cappuccino of haricots blancs with a mysterious 'trerful oerl', and my companion to have the tian of leeks and scallops, sauce champagne.

For the main course my friend took a moment's persuasion to have the chef's speciality, a fillet of sea bass roasted with braised salsify, and with a jus vanilla. I was offering no resistance of any kind, and accepted that I would have the blanquette of turbot with a ravioli of oyster and caviar. It carried a pounds 4 supplement.

The blue goose plates were swept away, and a very young wine-waiter threw himself into the charm assault with the kind of performance I remember vividly from school when very pretty younger boys played girls' roles in the Dramatic Society. Almost without realising it, I found I had ordered a Chablis Chateau de Maligny 1991 at pounds 18 a bottle.

Talking of schooldays, my companion and I discovered at that point that we had both been to the same public school on the south coast, and our scheduled conversation on the A27 rambled off into humorous reminiscence. I couldn't help wishing that we'd had girls in the school in my day.

This reverie was interrupted by the arrival of a tiny piece of pate de foie gras, framed with beads of caviar and accompanied by a crumpet of brioche, with the compliments of the chef.

The boy wine-waiter was on us in a flash, charming us into a pounds 2.40 glass of Sauternes to go with it. The combination of the sweet wine with the delicacy of the pate was enough to erase any memories of school, and was followed a moment later by an even tinier white coffee cup full of the most delicate gazpacho I have ever tasted.

I'm still not sure - my questions were turned aside in a flurry of French charm and flickering eyebrows - whether I owed these two 'surprises' to the fact that I look like Peter Shore or whether they are a regular feature to encourage lunchtime business, but I think it is only fair to mention them.

We then settled down to the real lunch. My cappuccino, a white froth fragrant with what turned out to be truffle oil and given texture by the beans, was beyond praise, and my guest was ecstatic about the tian - a sort of Chinese castle of pale green, roofed with a little heap of caviar - and particularly keen on the jus.

Back on the subject, my companion's English charm had gone on to overdrive: we talked of Glynde Station restored to full-time working, of once selfish car-users speeding off along the polished rails to Eastbourne and Hastings, to Portsmouth or Victoria, and were interrupted by the fish, about which I can say nothing more useful than that it was absolutely delicious.

By the time the pudding arrived the conversation had turned to the women's pool on HampsteadHeath, where my companion described swimming naked with her sister, and during that the pudding arrived. She had a tarte tatin of Cox's apples which she seemed to enjoy, I a creme brulee edged with slivers of dried apple, in a green jus Granny Smith. Lunch for two with drinks and coffee came to pounds 86.80 without the tip. I think it was the best food I have ever eaten in London, but I may by then have been slightly punch-drunk from all the charm.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine