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December 7, 2023

Why The Aubrey remains one of London’s most enchanting Japanese restaurants

Intimate and buzzy, this restaurant beneath the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is a destination in its own right

By Stephanie Bridger-Linning

An award-winning Japanese restaurant in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, The Aubrey is a decadent experience from start to finish. 

Location 

Beneath the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, a stalwart of London’s five-star hotel scene. (Its sister hotel, the Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, is due to open in 2024). Accessible from Knightsbridge via a dedicated entrance next to the grand entry to the hotel itself, The Aubrey feels exclusive from the very first moment.

Interiors 

A sumptuous and eclectic celebration of Japanese-inspired art and culture. The space is divided into a number of rooms that unfold like compartments of a jewellery box; each as ornate and opulent as the next. (The library is an especially cosy spot for a nightcap). 

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Wood-panelled walls are adorned in over 250 hand-procured pieces of ‘Japonistic art’. The curvaceous jewel-toned banquettes – shades of navy, deep rose and forest green – complement the emerald cocktail bar that is the focal point of the space. Some tables are marble topped, others wood.

In being separated into a number of rooms, The Aubrey succeeds in retaining a feeling of intimacy, even as the hours pass and more diners unfurl themselves into the plush seats. 

More than 250 pieces of art adorn the wood-panelled walls of The Aubrey

Food & Drink 

Elevated takes on the classics are the order of the day at The Aubrey, offered alongside grilled robata dishes and a selection of rice and noodles. The portions are generous – so come hungry.

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A League of Their Own

To start, blend Japanese and Western flavours with bites including the Spicy Fried Cauliflower and Truffle Croquettes (served with soy béchamel). Prawn Tempura is often badly done – greasy and limp – but this is truly succulent. The bitterness of the Shishito Peppers (a culinary ‘cousin’ to the padrón) was perhaps less welcome. 

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Follow with a selection of sushi (nagiri or sashimi), prepared in the Edomae style, using rice sourced from Hokkaido, and red vinegar made from ginjo sake lees. It is impossible to choose favourites but the suzuki (seabass) and sake (salmon) were both sublime. The undecided (or the uninitiated) will enjoy the 12-piece Signature Platter. The ‘new style sashimi’ section of the menu offers fresh takes on old classics – the Yellowtail Sashimi (served with picy ponzu, shiso and chilli) was a dish to remember. Another highlight: the Snow Crab and Passionfruit Maki. 

The Aubrey serves elevated twists on Japanese classics

Sadly, overexcitement in the earlier courses meant much of the robata menu and other delights went unsampled, although the Lamb Neck Fillet (served with tare sauce and egg yolk) was exquisite. 

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The cocktail list – styled after The Yellow Book, an influential British quarterly illustrated magazine published in the 1890s – is bursting with creative flair and so prettily presented in its yellow fabric-binding that it looks like a published work. Fans of a gimlet should opt for the Death of the Lion – Ki No Bi gin, yuzu liqueur, quinine and lime leaf cordial. Each of the signature cocktails pay homage to some of the influences of author and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, with an accompanying story explaining the source material. 

Service 

Attentive and professional with excellent knowledge of the menu. The sommelier was able to suggest a white wine that paired perfectly with the kaleidoscope of flavours on the table – no easy feat. 

Worth Knowing 

Late-night DJs transform The Aubrey into an upmarket Izakaya, even on a weeknight, so be warned if low-lighting and pumping music is not your thing. The weekend brunch is also rumoured to be sublime. 

The Verdict 

An intimate Japanese restaurant full of charm – and excellent food.

www.theaubreycollection.com

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  • Head of Department/Function
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  • Non-manager
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