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)

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
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
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
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

    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...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor