Aulis is a tiny six seat restaurant in a Soho side street, showcasing the food of Simon Rogan from L’Enclume. The format is simple: a no-choice tasting menu with paired wines rather than a wine list, at £195 per person. Aulis opened in November 2017, with executive chef Oli Marlow, who trained at The Fat Duck and Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons before working at Quay in Sydney. He had further roles at Roganic, Eleven Madison Park and Maeemo. As well as Aulis in London, Oli is executive chef for five Roganic and Aulis restaurants across the UK and Hong Kong. The person actually doing the cooking at Aulis London is Charlie Tayler, who was previously head chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury and before that worked at other interesting kitchens including the Ledbury and at a one-star Michelin kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto called Kinobu. The seats are arrayed around a counter and each course is served to diners at the same moment, so it feels a bit like a dinner party, with a relaxed atmosphere.
The meal began with a brik pastry cylinder containing beef tartare with coal oil seasoning, caper jam and egg yolk puree. The beef was bavette from Cornwall. This worked very nicely, with a smoky hint derived from the coal oil (15/20). This was followed by chickpea wafer made with gram flour and rosemary that had been topped with fresh cheese, deep fried and garnished with a garlic emulsion and edible flowers from the farm on l’Enclume (14/20). Next was a seaweed tartlet with Orkney scallop tartare and cucumber topped with trout roe that had been marinated in ponzu. This was a nicely balanced dish, as the acidity of the ponzu cut through the richness of the fish roe, with the crisp tartlet providing a contrasting texture (16/20).
The meal continued with a blini pancake with whipped crème fraiche bavarois topped with beetroot-cured salmon, pickled elderberries, Atillus Malossol (lightly salted) Siberian caviar and orange leaf. This worked very well, the classic combination of the salmon and blinis nicely enhanced by the sour touch of the pickled fruit and the brininess of the caviar (16/20).
The next course was a savoury take on bread and butter pudding, croissants baked with birch sap, with a stout reduction, truffle and grated Berkswell cheese from Warwickshire. This was a lovely dish, the birch sap a little like maple syrup without its cloying sweetness, the texture of the bread good and working well with the richness of the cheese and the luxurious fragrance of the truffle (17/20).
This was followed by a dish of peas from the farm at l’Enclume, along with pickled quail egg yolk, mint oil, elderflower vinegar and smoked cod roe (15/20). Next was chawanmushi, the Japanese savoury custard. This version was made from cep mushrooms, mussels and seaweed with a centre of beef tendon and beef consommé. This was a gorgeous, rich dish full of umami, with light texture and deep flavour (17/20).
I was less taken with miso-glazed and barbecued maitake mushroom marinated in soy and honey, topped with truffle custard and mushroom foam. This sounds good and I like this mushroom (known as the dancing mushroom in Japanese), but there was a vinegar element that was too sharp and gave a sourness to the dish (14/20). This was followed by a fillet of turbot from a medium sized 5 kg fish, served with lovage mousse, courgette puree and a sauce of lovage puree with lovage oil. The turbot was nicely cooked, the courgette puree was smooth and the sauce was pleasant (15/20).
The final course was savoury Cornish lamb loin and braised lamb belly, served with black garlic emulsion, pickled garlic scapes (stalks) and lamb jus. On the side was a lamb fat and rosemary brioche. The lamb had good flavour and was accurately cooked, the garlic working well with the delicate flavour of the lamb; on the side, the brioche had very light texture (15/20). In the place of a traditional cheese course was Tunworth cheese (a Hampshire cheese in the style of Camembert) ice cream with truffle honey, hazelnut oil and hazelnut tuile (15/20).
Dessert featured a meadow herb called melilot, with pear and apple compote gooseberry juice and cordial of gooseberries. This was harmless enough but I am just not a fan of savoury or vegetable elements in a dessert (13/20). I really did not enjoy home-made strawberry kombucha (tea fungus) and bee pollen cake with strawberry jam, sweet cicely jam, fig leaf powder and sorrel ice cream. The sorrel overwhelmed the other elements, though fermented green tea would not be my choice of flavour at the best of times, never mind with a sour gooseberry (11/20). Modern chefs seem to delight in plating surreal vegetables with some sweetener and calling them desserts, but please, for the love of God, just serve me something like a lemon tart at the end of my meal. Coffee was Columbian and came with vanilla ice cream cornet, salted chocolate ganache and apple marigold leaf, the latter having quite a strong flavour. This was pleasant enough (13/20).
Service was charming, with a female sommelier who used to work at Hedone. The bill was £195 all in. Overall, this was a very enjoyable evening, with friendly staff and inventive and well-made food. Michelin have passed this restaurant by thus far, but I am not at all sure why that would be. Desserts aside, this was an enjoyable, nicely presented and well-made meal.