After completing the most extensive restoration in its 117-year history in 2019, the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, in London’s swanky Knightsbridge neighbourhood, unveiled The Aubrey in March 2022.
The Japanese restaurant is open to residents and visitors.
What to expect and where to sit?
Accessible through its own ground-floor entrance to the side of the hotel, The Aubrey aims to channel the vibe of “an eccentric Japanese izakaya”. Created in partnership with the award-winning Hong Kong restaurant group Maximal Concepts, the resto-lounge pays homage to the “eccentricity and genius” of Japan's rich culture and food, says Maximal's co-founder Matt Reid.
Within, the intimate space is a maze of marble, velvet and wood furnishings, permeated with the warm hues of gold, green, plum and pink.
Tasselled lampshades glow with ambient light, creating cosy corners in the plush space that includes a library, salon and curio cabinets complete with jars of ginger.
Walls layered with silk panels of painted deer and gazelles inspired by the Japonisme movement further embellish the restaurant's aesthetic appeal. Art is a key element of the design scheme, which lavishes particular attention on the 19th-century British artist and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, whose name inspired the venue.
With a mellow soundtrack and friendly and attentive service, The Aubrey is a swish yet relaxed place where you can spend hours catching up with companions.
The menu draws on the classical techniques of edomae sushi, tempura and robata, and the overall experience is an interpretation of the philosophy of a traditional izakaya where guests share small dishes.
In the spirit of sharing, my dining companion and I and quickly divvied up the Japanese oysters covered in chilli daikon and citrusy ponzu sauce ($44 for six). After initiating our palates with the delicate and delicious molluscs, we shared the gomae salad ($11) with spinach in a flavourful sesame sauce, and deep-fried charcoal chicken ($17) served with a zesty yuzu mayo, both satisfying options to round up the snacks and salad portion of the meal.
Of special note also is the agedashi tofu with ankake mushroom ($15). Tofu is not normally something I hanker after, but The Aubrey’s is tasty, soft, slightly sweet, home-made and of high quality. It's the ideal option for vegans and vegetarians.
A platter of edomae nigiri sushi ($70 for 12 pieces), including yellowtail topped with ants, followed. In what I took to be a testament to the restaurant's authenticity and confidence, the dish is served ― and thoroughly enjoyed ― sans soy sauce. The freshness of the fish and seasoning of the rolls require no further embellishment.
For the mains, the sablefish ($39) marinated in rice-based saikyo miso dressing is creamy with a distinctive sweetness. Not as palatable is a side dish of leeks in red miso and shiso vinegar ($11), which we thought would make for a crunchy and novel protein accompaniment, but the leeks were unappetisingly burnt.
Also underwhelming was the white miso souffle, which failed to hit the right dessert notes. Overly eggy, it could have done with more miso or an additional umami flavour to tip the balance.
The Wagyu oxtail and bone marrow fried rice ($22) was undoubtedly the show-stopper of our meal. Hearty and sumptuous, the rice was moreish, while the oxtail dripped with mouth-watering fatty juices that were too good to feel guilty about.
All in all, the food was prepared proficiently and served well. However, aside from the oozing oxtail, the dishes could do with a bit more flair. Nevertheless, the ambience, setting, service and good quality make The Aubrey a place you can easily create happy memories.
Chat with the creator
Reid was born and raised in the UK, but moved to China in 2004. After spending half his life in Asia, he co-founded Maximal Concepts in 2012 with a vision “to do what we love and create honest restaurants and amazing experiences”. The company is best known for flagship brand Mott 32, which is expected to open soon in Dubai.
Following the success of The Aubrey in Hong Kong, when the opportunity to work with another one of the Mandarin Oriental’s flagship hotels in London came about, “we jumped at it with all our creativity”, Reid says.
“The concept was grounded in how ideas and creativity are influenced by travel, and Mandarin Oriental is a grande dame of travel and a crossroad of cultures. We also loved how Japonisme influenced so much art and design around the world.
Reid says he's an admirer of the attention to detail, variety and depth that Japanese food brings to the table. “From truly unique kaiseki experiences to omakase sushi, I can never get too much. We also look carefully at the sustainability of our menu; for example, we do not sell black cod, which is endangered, and have instead sourced an Arctic-farmed sable fish.”
Some of his favourite dishes include: edomae sushi, Hamachi collar and miso-glazed aubergine.
Price point and contact details
The menu is divided into starters (ranging from $6 for edamame to $94 for the A4 Wagyu sando); salads ($10-$21); tempura ($11-$25); robata ($11-$163), and rice and noodles ($17-$42).
Reservations can be made by contacting +44 20 7235 2000 or via sevenrooms.com.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant