Kensington and Chelsea (Borough of)

London – Kensington and Chelsea (Borough of) – Aubaine Brompton Road

Aubaine Brompton Road

My friend Liam and I were around ten years ago able to regularly visit various Aubaine restaurants in London, satiating his craving for perfectly cooked steak. I recall how he was able to slide the knife through it, it wasn’t like watching him hacksawing his way through some Greene King meal. I had chance to visit again today, as part of The Fork’s promotion, which not only meant a free meal but also a chance to remember past dines.

Arriving ten minutes early I was at first nervous that they might not have a table ready for me, but it transpired that there were only three tables occupied for the entire evening. Given that they’re currently also running a 50% off food offer there’s an element of tragedy to this compared to the vibrant atmosphere that I remember. The interior is refined, clean and suitably charming, although it doesn’t feel quite as on-trend as it once did. And although restaurants such as this are inevitably meant to be timeless, there wasn’t the exciting edge that I recall. The reviews are also slightly on the slide and the restaurant’s top ratings have come down to something around the Wetherspoons range, it’s not where it should be.

As a self-imposed rule, I always try not to get the best tables when dining alone as I don’t want to take up a restaurant’s most desired seating areas. The reality is that I’m nearly always offered them anyway, I’ve never experienced anything different as a sole diner for many years. Although I’m sure that the staff member knew that they weren’t going to fill many tables anyway so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice to give me a seat by the window.

Aubaine Brompton Road

I ordered the bread selection as a starter and the Wagyu beef burger as the main, although the latter arrived twenty seconds after the former which was a little faster than I had anticipated. The staff member mentioned that the kitchen had made the burger quickly, which was certainly true. But they didn’t have much else to do to be fair, so this wasn’t a surprise. The sourdough bread and baguette were complemented beautifully by the Isigny Sainte-Mère AOP butter. I’m not a butter connoisseur, but this had a richness and authenticity to it. I accepted that the sourdough bread is meant to be hard by its nature, but I was a little disappointed that the baguette had the same texture. I like fluffy and light bread, I’m not so sure of the firm and inflexible types.

As for the Wagyu burger, I can’t tell the difference between the various types of beef and it seems to me that it’s more about the name than much else. Which doesn’t mean that it wasn’t suitably meaty and rich, as it was, but I’m not sure it went far beyond that. The mustard mayonnaise was a delight though with the coleslaw being creamy and the fries were crispy on the interior and fluffy on the inside. They should do bread like that.

When dining at a French restaurant it’s perhaps a little, if not entirely, inappropriate to comment too much on the beer choice, since I should be drinking wine. I went for the 1936 Biere from Brauerei Locher, a lager which had a clean taste but it didn’t have the strength of flavour to match the strength of the mustard mayonnaise, let alone the burger. Beef dishes ideally need something with more robustness, a nice porter perhaps for those who don’t want a complex and rich wine. There’s a mismatch here, they’ve got the red and white wines carefully listed out by strength so that it makes it easy to pair them with the food, but they’ve done little with the beers. I entirely get that traditional French restaurants are about wine, not beer, but it didn’t suit my needs and ultimately that’s the only angle I can come from. The La Fine Mousse Restaurant in Paris offers beer sommeliers, that’s the future as I see it.

Aubaine Brompton Road

I had noticed that the on-line menu on The Fork had a pistachio eclair as one of the dessert options and I was a little disappointed that the staff member said they’d discontinued it. I felt slightly guilty for not taking up the server’s suggestion of the pancake specials since I was dining on Pancake Day, she seemed quite excited to tell me about them. I’m not actually sure they sold any of these at all which must be disheartening, but I’m not really a dessert person and I have the clearly sacrilegious belief, particularly on Pancake Day, that they’re just stodgy lumps of food that are best avoided. Which all meant that I went for the old reliable of the creme brulée. It didn’t take too long to arrive, a light and soft creamy interior with the suitably crisp and hardened top, this was prepared just as I liked it.

Aubaine Brompton Road

I got the impression that the server seemed disheartened when I turned down a request for anything else, not least as she offered three times and always immensely politely. It wasn’t a matter of selling me something, I had £50 credit and she could see that I hadn’t used it all. She persisted and I wasn’t going to turn down her offer of a free green tea to take away, although it was so hot that I had to keep changing hands until it cooled down a bit. I’m sure I’ve got defective hands as other people seem to be able to manage with things such as this. It’s like changing light bulbs I think.

Aubaine Brompton Road

It was still too hot for me to hold at the underground station, so I gave it a little rest. I finished it about 11 stops down the line and it was a solid green tea, absolutely no complaints.

I like this restaurant, not least as it was not unpleasant to be back after nearly a decade. I’m glad, frankly, that it’s still there and clearly doing something right. However, I expected it to be busier and I can’t see how they didn’t lose money tonight. What with electricity prices, rent, staff wages, staff availability and all the other factors combining, this must be a challenge now to keep going. They also have several outlets not far from each other which adds even more to the challenge, so it’s not entirely a surprise to see them discounting food so much at the moment. I hope that they can turn it soon so that they have some profitable spring and summer months, it’s a cafe at heart and so the outside dining can return for those that like sitting on a pavement.

It was also reassuring from a customer perspective that the staff member was caring enough to ensure I got value for money. It’s not always easy for staff members to deal with single diners as they have to work out why they’re there. Are they there for company, for a quick meal paid for on expenses or because they want to treat themselves to something special? You can really mess up someone’s important meal in a way that perhaps matters less when you’re dealing with multiple diners. As it was, I was solely there for the food and drink, so I required no special maintenance, but it was pleasing that I felt they tried to establish my intentions.

I can’t say that anything was spectacular in terms of the food, it was all competent and acceptable, which seems to be neither good nor bad in a high-end restaurant such as this. The service was timely, the restaurant was clean and the atmosphere was inviting, all those elements were there. I’d return quite willingly, there was nothing particularly wrong with the visit and I quite fancy the stone bass I noticed on the mains as I have not one clue what that tastes like. Probably like cod, but it’d be rewarding to find out.