13 -14 Cork Street
London W1S 3NS
Tel: 020 7409 1370
In this part of London the way you dress says a lot about you. It’s important to fit in and be part of the scenery. The Aurelia named after the ancient Roman Road in Italy does this perfectly. Cork Street is one of those anonymous Mayfair thoroughfares, well dressed, using the art galleries that dominate as its wardrobe. Painting a picture of sophistication and style with temperate ease and not a brush stroke out of place.
I’ll just say right from the start that the menu is most unlike a roman road, in that it’s full of twists and turns. The food is trying to please all of the people all of the time when its location is screaming out for high couture served on a pristine plate. And indeed it can achieve that along with a slight muddle of other things. But it’s confusing because all the food we had was close to brilliant. I just couldn’t understand why The Aurelia wants to be tapas bar, wants to be a walk in brasserie, when it is a high-end restaurant.
Contemporary Mediterranean cuisine is the name of the game here. You could enjoy the set menu 3 courses for £28 or you could go Tapas where the prices start to take a hike. So £26.50 will get a charcuterie board of 4 meats and pickles, bread etc. Then there’s another section, which is the start of the main menu and there you will find a carpacci, terrine, tatare sections. I chose foie gras terrine with prune & Armagnac, a good price at £12.50. The portion was generous and it tasted great but sadly it arrived about 9 minutes after my dining partner’s tapas dish of mini Iberico burger! Which, of course she had eaten by then. Now this is really basic stuff in a restaurant. There have been some changes to staffing recently and a refit of the kitchen and the downstairs area, but still for a table of two it seems poor. I hope it doesn’t take too long for it all to settle down.
We sat downstairs which is loud and buzzy not least because the kitchen is exposed. This can be fun but it wasn’t quite the theatre I had hoped. So ultimately I would advise being a little distance from it. You can still see the action but endure less of the noise. The place was full on the Friday evening we went and the coiffured heads around me were all enjoying themselves. This joint is full of well-heeled diners ordering their bespoke food with all expectation of a Savile Row devotee.
The next stage of the menu takes us to starter or salad, soup and pasta. Quite a lot looked interesting, diver scallops gratin is not usually the Italian way. Then we begin to see another spike, Bouillabaisse that well known fish soup from Marseille was looking for £20 to be brought to the table.
Then we come to the rotisserie and robata grill section (do you feel like it’s a journey yet?). Prepare to have your breath taken a way (a little bit anyway, I’ll save the best for later) Fiorentina T-bone steak 1.3kg for £59 or whole chargrilled wild sea bass for £29.50. They have yet another section of the menu called the Aurelia sharing rotisserie reserved for dishes you can order 24 hours in advance. So here’s the massive spike section, roasted rabbit with mustard dressing £50 and wait for it … roasted wild boar leg (it must be a whole leg?) £390! Now while I’m sure these prices would not shock everyone I was quite surprised. Simply put, the costs vary so much that you could spend as little as £15 on a few tapas dishes and several hundred pounds on other albeit high end food. This is not just one restaurant it appears to be at least two if not three operating from the same address.
Avoiding the hair-raising prices mentioned earlier we opted for a couple of lamb dishes. I had from the truffle menu (yes another one) an exceptional rack of lamb with a hazelnut crust and fresh truffle sliced on top at the table. You pay for the truffle by the gram (£9.50) but the lamb was sizable and a very reasonable £26. Vegetables were extra. The second plate was garlic infused salt marsh lamb with fresh mint scattered over delicately separated meat. This was a stand out winner and under £30.
I must emphasise that the cooking at Aurelia is exemplary. It might just be that they are suffering from a multitude of menu sections under one roof, six pages is too many for me. I found it quite confusing.
Puddings looked normal enough then I noticed the last entry, dessert deluxe at £25. We had to order it. Now this is where the Aurelia really starts to show off. It arrived without any warning of size. A cornucopia of delights was placed between us. In no particular order of loveliness we had a perfect clementine and Grand Marnier soufflé, tarte tatin, some poached pineapple, a nougat parfait, chocolate pudding with a decadent runny filling and quite a few other sorbets and fruit salads. There was some fancy sugar work as well. These, without exception were all magnificent.
So, what to make of The Aurelia? It’s hard to be too critical as its main function is to provide high quality food. This it does with aplomb, but I do wonder about the genus, there are simple too many sections for a restaurant producing food of this calibre. As a tailor might say to a valued client on Savile Row just a couple of streets away “no sir, I think that when we have made the necessary minor adjustments it will fit just fine”.