Aurelia, 13-14 Cork Street, Mayfair, London W1 - Reviews - Food + Drink - The Independent

Aurelia, 13-14 Cork Street, Mayfair, London W1

 

I've been eating in a lot of spartan, hole-in-the-wall restaurants lately. Places where the furniture is reclaimed from an old factory, the staff are reclaimed from a Kooples poster, and you can eat anything you like, as long as it's a big hunk of meat.

Don't get me wrong – it's great that London has got its own scruffy, borderline-fetishistic dining scene. But sometimes, as a break from all this gastro-machismo, wouldn't it be nice to go somewhere pretty and be treated like a laydee?

Aurelia is just the place for that. Depending on your perspective, it's a reminder of the old days, when ladies were made to feel special and the gentlemen paid the bill. Or it's a ridiculous throwback to a past geological era – the Permatan period, perhaps – when Continental restaurant managers flirted gamely with ladies of a certain age, while white-jacketed barmen conjured up overpriced Bellinis.

Aurelia is the latest thoroughbred from the family-run stable that includes Zuma, Roka and La Petite Maison, and its modern Mediterranean cooking is apparently inspired by the Aurelian Way, the Roman coastal road to Spain.

Posh Italian, in other words, with a side order of Jamon Iberico. But head chef Rosie Yeats has spent the past few years cooking modern Japanese food at Roka, so Aurelia promises to be more than just another upmarket Mayfair trattoria, even if the Aurelian Way never made it as far as Kyoto.

I'd like to say that the subterranean dining room, with its open kitchen and marble chef's counter, is beautiful. But I can't, because I never saw it. My guest and I were shown to a table in the less formal bar area upstairs, and only realised there was a swankier inner sanctum downstairs when we read about it later. Some kind of guest selection policy obviously applies, and we failed the test. Maybe because I was wearing trousers?

Still, the upstairs room is pretty enough, small and honey-hued, with expensive highlights. Foxed mirrors and marble mosaics evoke Venice, but it's an oddly savourless space – the restaurant equivalent of a beige cashmere wrap.

My guest, Erica, had travelled to London especially for this lunch, after her generous husband bid for it in a charity fundraising event. But our getting-to-know-you chat was bluntly interrupted by a waitress cutting in to explain the menu concept. "It's very original," she warned us; dishes are intended for sharing, and brought to the table when they're ready. Not that original, then – they do it that way at La Petite Maison. But maybe in Mayfair the concept of sharing is still quite a novelty.

Another non-novelty is the arrangement of the menu by cooking style – salads, rotisserie, grill, and the more mysterious 'kitchen' (everything else). Our waitress described it as being divided into 'departments' – rather like Switzerland, the country this immaculate, neutral restaurant closely resembles. There's nothing radical here – charcuterie, rib of beef, Dover sole and veal cutlet for the Cork Street art dealers, and fancy salads for the galleristas. Unusually for an Italian restaurant, it only offers one pasta dish – crab linguine – and one risotto, made with white truffle (£50).

We started on the lower slopes, with a couple of dishes showcasing the kitchen's Japanese connection – courgette fritto, which had the crunch of good tempura, and an escabeche of red mullet, with pickled carrot picking up the oriental theme of the marinated fish. A salad of Castelluccio lentils dressed with orange and mint, and smoked swordfish carpaccio with capers and rocket, were both impeccable; carb-free plates for ladies who lunch.

Just how far we'd come from the meaty badlands was highlighted when our salt marsh leg of lamb (£21) arrived pre-carved into a fan of thin, pink-centred slices – we're ladies, we can't cut our own meat! – and drizzled with salmoriglio, this season's gremolata. We partnered it with a gratin dauphinoise, which for an extra £20 can be pimped up with white truffle, shaved tableside. We caught a fleeting aroma of truffle, but the flavour never really fought its way out over all that cheese.

Cheesy, too, if well-meant, was the maître d's repertoire of jokes, arm squeezes and gallantries, all pitched at a register to cheer up a depressed dowager. "I know who he reminds me of," whispered Erica, as he threw us a coquettish moue from behind the bar. "Bruno Tonioli!"

A meal that was characterised by careful good taste, rather than exuberant explosions of flavour – pleasing, rather than fab-u-lous (as Bruno T would say) – ended with an autumnal dessert of mascarpone cheesecake, served with slices of spiced quince. It brought our bill to around £80 a head, including a couple of glasses of wine each, and coffee.

At which point, back into the real world for me and Erica. Aurelia may be doing great business already, but it wasn't really our kind of place. Or, more accurately, perhaps we weren't Aurelia's kind of women.

Aurelia, 13-14 Cork Street, Mayfair, London W1 (020-7409 1370)

Food ****
Ambience **
Service ***

Around £50 a head before wine and service

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Queens of cuisine

Hélène Darroze

The Connaught's top chef earnt a second Michelin star this year for dishes such as oyster tartare with caviar, velouté of white bean.

Carlos Place, London W1 (020-7499 7070)

Frances Atkins

Stuffed guinea fowl with rosemary gnocchi is a typical dish from the female chef at this atmospheric Yorke Arms restaurant.

Yorke Arms, North Yorks (01423 755243 )

Fiona Were

The Greenbank Hotel's head chef specialises in dishes such as seabass fillet with crushed potatoes, Parma ham, and fennel cream sauce.

Falmouth, Cornwall (01326 312440)

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week