Aubaine: Where Chelsea's elite have posed since 2004. This lovely French restaurant-cum-boulangerie is beautiful in every sense of the word.
Located in the smart Brompton Cross district of SW3, Aubaine is as effortlessly chic as its Parisian compatriots. A duck egg blue décor spills out onto Chelsea's streets with a clutch of much-coveted alfresco tables. Inside the theme is very much designer industrial-meets-shabby chic with zinc-topped dining tables, exposed air vents and muted flask-shaped lighting. A jumble of tables includes a huge wooden beast at the back which is great for parties and day-to-day communal dining.
Nuzzled between Brompton's designer windows, Aubaine is where all the Chelsea luvvies hang out. Thanks to its popular bakery and daytime dining, Aubaine has attracted a fiercely loyal crowd over the past seven years. The clientèle is generally a mix of local residents in for supper and a takeaway fougasse, and the young and gorgeous hogging the best tables and swilling champagne with carefree abandon. The weekends see an influx of hip, young families in for a child-friendly brunch. The staff are smart, friendly and nicely efficient.
Open from 8am Aubaine has a menu for every occasion; breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. For dinner, try the duck eggs and fresh asparagus (£9.50). A pair of crumbed, fried duck eggs (like a Scotch egg sans meat) nestle on a comfy bed of leaves with stalks of fresh asparagus paddling in a loose hollandaise. The beef carpaccio (£15.50) arrives as a fanned 'rose' of finely-sliced fillet with rocket and shaves of good parmesan. The promised truffle oil is hard to notice, making it a pleasant but not outstanding dish for such an inflated price.
As for main courses, there's generally a couple of decent specials on the board, including an exquisite peppered fillet steak (£23.50), served on bed of creamed celeriac. The steak, served perfectly rare and sliced neatly into three, is soft, peppery and with stacks of well-aged flavour. The side of chips (£3.50) are sadly, a dry and flaccid let down. The menu covers all angles with the Aubaine beef fillet burger (£16) served on a wooden board with a paper cone of fries easily the most popular dish on the menu, and it looks awesome.
If fish is your thing then try the roast Arctic char with clams, samphire and wild garlic (£17.50). It's a simple dish made remarkable by a heavenly smoked butter sauce. A side of buttered spinach (£3.95) is all that's really needed, but an extra dish of roast fennel and tomato (£3.95) is deliciously welcome too.
While your belts might be buckling, try to find room for dessert. Rather than a traditional menu, a selection of delights from the patisserie are displayed on a slate for perusal - a sort of modern day dessert trolley. Starting from £3.95 you can tuck into nice, but a little too firm passion fruit cheesecake (£5) and a delicious raspberry tart (£5.50).
The wine list is a surprising (for a French restaurant) mix of French, European and new world wines. The house white is a light and zingy Bergerie De La Bastide from the Languedoc region and at £16.95 for the bottle it's fairly reasonable for the area. There's also a good selection of mid-range offerings including a nice Croze-Hermitage for £35 a bottle. And for the champers-swilling youngsters, the house fizz starts at £10.95 a glass or £54 a bottle, right up to Ruinard's Blanc de Blanc at £120 a pop.
The Last Word
Despite it's rather inflated Chelsea prices, Aubaine offers good food, decent and well-priced wines and a glorious boulangerie. In fact, it's the perfect neighbourhood restaurant.