What: An “eccentric” izakaya at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. In the space vacated by Bar Boulud, The Aubrey offers creative cocktails accompanied by an upscale Japanese menu.
WHO:The Aubrey is the first UK for Hong Kong-based Maximal Concepts. Founded in 2012, the hotel catering specialist operates locations in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Las Vegas and Singapore. Its portfolio includes Cantonese restaurant brand Mott 32, barbecue and seafood restaurant Limewood and Thai bar-restaurant format Sip Song. The Aubrey London follows the launch of The Aubrey Hong Kong early last year, which is also based in a Mandarin Oriental hotel. The group is led by Malcolm Wood, Xuan Mu and Matt Reid
The atmosphere:Uh, vibey. Given its location in one of London’s most exclusive hotels, Bar Boulud was a relatively egalitarian affair with an all-day feel. The Aubrey seeks to appeal to a more luxurious and style-conscious crowd and is perhaps a better fit for the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park than the windowless site’s former occupant, all traces of which have been removed. Brady Williams delivered an undeniably pretty room inspired by the Japonisme movement. The large space — which has a much softer, lighter aesthetic than most high-end Japanese places in London — has been divided up to create many smaller spaces. All in all, it’s a very efficient restaurant design, but whether the look of the place is somehow reminiscent of an izakaya – a laid-back Japanese lair – is up for debate.
The food:The menu lists most of the dishes one would expect to find in an upscale Japanese restaurant, but it is well written. Things start with caviar and oysters (the latter start at £6 a pop) before moving on to starters and snacks; a large selection of salads; sushi and sashimi; tempura; dishes cooked with robata; and rice and noodles. Dishes include charcoal-grilled chicken karaage with yuzu mayonnaise; crab korokke with tonyu béchamel sauce; saikyo miso sablefish; and a £78 sando wagyu A4. The sushi is prepared in the edomae style, a more upscale Tokyo-style preparation that originated in the Edo period of Japan.
The drinks:Cocktails start at £15 but usually hover around £20 and include The Black Cat (Teda rum, umeshu, Port Charlotte whisky, Okinawan sugar); and Flowers of Edo (Nikka from The Barrel, homemade yuzu soda). Predictably, sake comes next in the pecking order, with The Aubrey focusing on emerging brews as well as “rare and unusual” releases.
And something else:The Aubrey also offers what is billed as London’s first omakase cocktail experience, in which a series of drinks are created for each guest based on their favorite spirits and flavors.