A Review – Aulis

It was the husband’s birthday a few weeks ago, and we wanted to mark the occasion with something pretty special – I think we managed it with our trip to Aulis! I was looking into the tasting menu at Fera at Claridge’s, which looked more than a little top notch as you would imagine. Then, on their website, I stumbled across Aulis…we found something more than pretty special…

Aulis

Chefs Rafael Cagali and Jeppe Berg Christiansen

Fera is Simon Rogan’s London restaurant, set in the wonderful glamour of Claridge’s in Bond Steet. Behind the main kitchen of Fera, is the development kitchen where Chef’s work throughout the day coming up with new dishes to wow diners. In January 2016 the development kitchen was opened to the public and Aulis was born. Open three nights a week for six lucky diners at a time, this is a must for any foodie. I honestly couldn’t believe I was able to reserve to seats here on the husband’s birthday, with only 18 diners a week you need to be quick off the mark.

We arrived at Claridge’s about an hour before our reservation and made our way to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Neither of us had been to Claridge’s before (which is surprising!) so we wanted to take in the atmosphere before the dinner. If you haven’t been before, do pop in to the bar for a quick cocktail, beautiful surroundings, top class drinks and totally indulgent.

Aulis

green apple, yoghurt, caraway and cucumber gin

When it was time, we were led through to Fera, where we were seated at their small but perfectly formed cocktail bar. This is where we got our first taste of what was about to come at Aulis. Simon Rogan is all about seasonal and local produce, and this ethos runs through the cocktail bar with vodkas and gins being brewed onsite and infused with seasonal flavours – I opted for a green apple, yoghurt, caraway and cucumber gin, and the boy went for liquorice root, seaweed, citrus and whisky. I fell in love with my gin concoction, the whiskey wasn’t bad either!

Aulis

liquorice root, seaweed, citrus and whisky

Now, it was at this point I started to get a little twitchy. You see, I knew that there were 6 seats in Aulis. It was now 7:30pm, the booking was for 7pm, yet we were the only people in the bar….could a girl dare to dream?! Our waitress asked if we were ready, and as we got to our feet I quietly asked “are there no other diners tonight?”, “there was a last minute cancellation, it will just be the two of you”. I could have dropped to my knees and done a cry of sheer joy – but I was in Claridge’s and the girl must retain at least some decorum, instead I did a silent excited face at the husband.

As we were led through the beautiful restaurant, we started to feel very privileged indeed –we walked past other diners and straight into the kitchen of Fera to the doors of Aulis.

Aulis

Mackerel, tomato, fennel, algae pearls

We couldn’t have received a warmer welcome when we stepped into Aulis and were greeted by the development chefs Rafael Cagali and Jeppe Berg Christiansen. Rafael is the Head Chef and Jeppe is Head of Development. Rafael has previously worked at The Fat Duck and Quique Dacosta, a three star Michelin pedigree! As we took our seats at the breakfast bar, it felt like we had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. It is designed to look like a domestic kitchen – just ignore the sous vide machine and various other kitchen tech around – and we were all chatting effortlessly about foodie likes and dislikes.

Aulis

Raw scallop, koji, seaweed

You do have the option of having tasting wines with each course, but instead, we opted for an easy drinking bottle of red that would take us through the dinner – the sommelier nailed exactly the wine we wanted. We have done a seven course menu with matching wines before, and as you can tell from my review at The Vineyard, I couldn’t quite remember the last couple of dishes! We wanted to really enjoy the food for what it was, rather than gobbling everything because we were drunk!

 

Now, usually when I review restaurants, I do try to take you through each course, however, the menus change SOOOO much in Aulis (two different dishes most nights and generally a whole new menu every two weeks!) it feels like that may be a slight wasted journey, also there were FOURTEEN plates of food so it may take a while! Instead I will pull out some of my highlights…the menu in full was:

 

Celeriac, barley, hen of the woods, juniper

English peas, salt cod and calamint

Leek, herb, brown butter cream

Raw scallop, koji, seaweed

Deer, kohlrabi, oyster, apple

Potato crisp, horseradish, truffle

Mackerel, tomato, fennel, algae pearls

Pork fat, carrots, nasturtium, tarragon

Smoked Buford Brown, girlies, runner beans, hazelnut

Halibut, breme onion, cucumber, whey

Belted Galloway beef, plum, cabbage, coffee

Granny Smith, apple marigold, sable

BBQ apricot, early grey, praline, melilot

Sweet cicily and mascarpone

The ‘Leek, herb, brown butter cream’ was a real treat – this is something that is unlikely to ever be served in Fera as it is quite labour intensive for the kitchen.  A bundle of herbs tied together with a string of leek that is used to mop up the brown butter cream. Presented on a large pebble, this was a real showstopper and we felt privileged that not many people would get to try it!

Aulis

Leek, herb, brown butter cream

The ‘Potato crisp, horseradish, truffle’ was another really special dish for us. A bed of  crispy potato, with a horseradish puree and piled high with shavings of truffle.  My experience of truffle is generally dishes with truffle oil in them which can be overpowering, but fresh grated truffle is a whole new taste experience.  Much more mild and the texture, combined with the crispy potato, is to die for.

Aulis

Potato crisp, horseradish, truffle

Other stand outs for these bite sized dishes, were charred, raw peas, a perfect strip of venison and sweet raw scallops.

I was very excited to see the ‘Belted Galloway beef, plum, cabbage, coffee’ on the menu, I very excitedly told the chefs about my Coffee Marinated Steak recipe – I knew those flavours worked together! The beef was cooked to perfection and the plums were an inspired addition.

Aulis

Plating up the Belted Galloway beef, plum, cabbage, coffee

When eating the ‘Pork fat, carrots, nasturtium, tarragon’, I found something slightly bitter on my palate, immediately I was given the various components that make up the dish so that we could try and pinpoint what it was. The culprit was one of the nasturtium leaves.  It wasn’t horrible, just very strong for me and purely a matter of taste as the husband couldn’t taste any bitterness.  It was great the way that the chefs pulled apart the dish for me – they really do care about the diners’ experience and their feedback.

IMG_1322

Pork fat, carrots, nasturtium, tarragon

I’m not a huge dessert fan, so I wasn’t overly excited about these two dishes, but the granny smith dessert was amazing – tangy and fresh, exactly my kind of sweet treat.

Aulis

Granny Smith, apple marigold, sable

The last mouthful of food for the evening, really did its job and left a lasting impression.  We were presented with a piece of bark with some green sponge on it.  I’d never heard of sweet cicily before but I MUST have it again!  Sweet and spongy this is a real treat sensation and worked beautifully with the creamy mascarpone.

Aulis

Sweet cicily and mascarpone

Now, this does look like a lot of courses (and there were!), but everything is so balanced so you shouldn’t leave feeling heavy and full – just the perfect side of satisfied!

It was very apparent that everyone we spoke to who was involved with Aulis and Fera were intensely passionate about what they were doing, from the front of house, to the bar, to the kitchen. And although the food was marvellous, in fact, more than marvellous, it was the interaction with Rafael and Jeppe that really did make the evening. We weren’t sure what to expect, these guys are dishing up immaculate dishes right in front of us, would they really have time to interact with us, answer our amateur questions and laugh politely at a few drunken jokes? They were so relaxed with us, they put as at ease immediately and even laughed at my dodgy one liners!

Aulis

Rafael Cagali, Head Chef

We were obviously extremely lucky that we had such a one on one experience, but even with four other diners for company it would still be a one of a kind experience.

You should go. You may see us there for our second visit!

Book your seat at Aulis here

 

The set menu at Aulis is £150 per person which is payable on booking.  Drinks and service to be paid at the end of the meal.  Our final bill came to £554 for two people, which included the meal, 4 cocktails, a bottle (and a bit!) of wine, an after dinner nightcap plus service.

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2 Comments

  1. This seems like a crazy evening! I bet your husband was happy with this present 😮 Never heard of sweet cici.. What is it exactly? You made me curious 😉

    • bdaunter@hotmail.co.uk

      i’m not sure who was more excited! Its a herb/flower but I think they must have steamed it to give it a really spongy texture. Tasted nothing like it before!

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