Jason Allen 01/08/23
Aulis | Counter dining in the heart of Soho
From the first bite of the first dish at Aulis, you know you’re in for a stunning meal.
It’s a small, dainty little tartlet brimming with colourful flowers & herbs sitting on a mattress of gooseberry & raw sea bream, all cut though by an unexpected, earthy seam of coal oil – it’s like tasting light and dark in the same mouthful. It sets the bar very high and somehow, over the course of the next couple of hours, they just keep raising it.
Everything starts in the bar area of the newly revamped & refurbished restaurant, tucked down one of the alleyways running between Dean & Wardour Streets in Soho. Armed with a glass of something bubbly, you’ll have the first five dishes delivered to you. No menu, just the first of many courses. And the man doing the delivering is the head chef himself – one Charlie Tayler, the man entrusted by Simon Rogan to run his London flagship. (Aulis may be Rogan’s restaurant, but he’s busy running his three Michelin Star flagship L’Enclume in Cumbria.)
It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest, because Charlie doesn’t feel like a stereotypical head chef – he doesn’t bark orders, or ooze the knife-edge intensity of the kitchen commanders of yesteryear. He seems far too laid back for that. He’s personable, approachable, and brings a sense of fun to the proceedings as he explains each beautiful little dish he’s bringing out.
Things then move through to the main space, with their beautiful new counter. It’s arranged in an elegant C-shaped sweep of quartz, with just a dozen seats, sat in front of a very small kitchen. Charlie Tayler and his team (comprising just a couple of other chefs and a somm) then start meticulously scorching, slicing, chopping, blending, braising, and barbecuing (yes barbecuing, on an indoor Japanese-style Binchotan charcoal grill). And what follows is a parade of inventiveness, creativity, and sheer deliciousness.
Not only is there not any ‘dud’ dish in there, but there isn’t anything that’s less than great – among the standouts are a small hill of sweet crab sitting on a golden shard of roasted chicken skin; a double-size scallop swimming in a fragrant wild chamomile & buttermilk broth; some extraordinarily yielding beef tendons (which had been pressure-cooked to the point of almost melting in your mouth); a wedge of West coast turbot decorated in lightly sautéed Black Beauty courgettes; an incredible ice cream-like scoop of frozen Tunworth cheese draped in London borage honey; and a carrot cake that can only be described as the most carrot cakey carrot cake in existence.
All the while Charlie will be holding court, entertaining, chatting, introducing the dishes, and encouraging conversation in a way that makes the whole thing feel more like a dinner party than a restaurant. That fancy new C-shaped table doesn’t hurt either, ensuring that the various guests are ever-so-slightly facing one another, rather than just straight at the wall.
And to help ease both the passage of both the conversation and the food, the highly capable sommelier & FOH maestro Charles Brown offers three tiers of wine pairing (plus a non-alcoholic option) that pluck liberally from across the globe, buttressing old world & new world favourites with bottles from places like Lebanon, Canada, and Japan.
And when it’s all finished?
Then you get given a menu.
NOTE: Aulis has relaunched after its refurbishment, and is open Tuesday to Saturday with sittings every night at 7pm. Dinner costs £175 per head, and can be booked at their website right here.
Aulis | 16a St Anne’s Ct, Soho, W1F 0BF
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16a St Anne's Ct, Soho, Central London, W1F 0BF
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9.5 | Amazing
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