The Aubrey London has burst onto London's restaurant scene this year, promising an 'eccentric Japanese izakaya experience' and the city's first omakase cocktail bar, where mixologists can shake up bespoke drinks inspired by your own unique tastes. Plus, if its location in Knightsbridge's Mandarin Oriental Hotel was any indication, the venue was bound to be gorgeous and its meals delish. With high expectations, I went along to check it out...
From the get-go, walking into The Aubrey London felt like stepping into another world. This maze of opulence has three separate spaces - a lounge, a salon and a library - decked out with everything you could need for drinking and dining at all occasions, including intimate nooks, marble table tops, plush velvet or leather seating, and a soundtrack of Japanese trap music. We settled down in a swish space surrounded by warm terracotta colours and crane motifs, with gold detailing and chandeliers to boot.
Being a little distracted by how this might be the most beautiful restaurant ever, I barely had chance to look over their extensive list of drinks and small plates. Luckily for us, their expert team put together a bespoke tasting menu of all the kitchen's best bits and signature dishes; from snacks and salads to sushi, robata and rice. We kicked off proceedings with shichiken junmai daiginjo (£15 a glass), a refreshing and fruity sake that was recommended for our first couple of treats: edamame with yuzu salt (£5) and Japanese oysters (£6 per piece) accompanied by an ikura, finger lime and white ponzu drizzle.
If the freshness of the oysters was anything to go by, we knew the Edomae nigiri (£58) platter would be off the charts. Each pair had its own distinct taste, both from the fish itself (we had sea bass, yellowtail tuna, salmon, mackerel, salmon roe and botan prawn) and the flavours added by the chefs. Striking a balance between sweet, spicy, salty and sour, this is, by far, the best sushi I've ever eaten. And it didn't end there... Tucking into the deliciously hearty wagyu oxtail & bone marrow fried rice (£18) and succulent charcoal chicken karaage (£14), which was divine dipped in the zesty yuzu mayo, only continued the trend.
As for veggies, I never knew they could be this full of flavour. The gomae (£9) - baby spinach in a rich, creamy sesame sauce - and robata-grilled leeks (£9) with red miso and shisho vinegar truly felt like complete dishes, rather than accompaniments. Of course, this is always the case with Japanese fare at its best. Our favourite offering, however, was the saikyo miso sablefish (£32). This fillet would fall apart if you poked it with a pin and was cooked to absolute perfection, leaving the fish juicy and tender.
For dessert, and The Aubrey London's crowning glory, a gorgeous white miso souffle (£14) was brought to our table. This fluffy pud offset the complex flavour of miso with a slight hint of sweetness, for the perfect end to our meal. Dare I say it; but this is a step up from the traditional version. Despite polishing off our food, having not tried the delights of the cocktail bar, we couldn't leave just yet... My other half chose the seasonal Kikenji (£17), a mix of Japanese strawberry, tequila blanco, chili umeshu, citrus and red perilla, while I went for Le Mort d'Artur (£19), which is whipped up from sweet potato shochu, yellow chartreuse, clarified coconut and pineapple. As expected, both drinks were as sophisticated and well-balanced as the small plates. Bravo.
The DesignMyNight Digest
The Aubrey London is the answer to Japanese fine dining in our capital. From the speakeasy-style vibes of the entrance and bar area to the swanky interiors throughout, it's a wonder to behold and sure to impress. Better yet, this izakaya's style doesn't stop at just looks. You can tell that all the dishes here use the freshest ingredients, traditional cooking methods and finest flavours, making for a dining experience that you just won't be able to stop thinking (or talking) about.
💰 The damage: £334 between two, plus service charge.
📍 The location: 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA.
👌 Perfect for: Feeling like royalty.
⭐ Need to know: Service here is second to none, so don't be afraid to ask for a bit of advice.
Hungry for more? Here's our guide to the best Japanese restaurants in London.