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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas