Fun, laid back dining in one of London’s truly atmospheric restaurants.
So you want a hidden gem of a restaurant, healthy portions and an idiosyncratic atmosphere? Aurora awaits. Unselfconsciously kooky, this compact restaurant with a gothic charm is the perfect haven from London’s rat race. A candlelit dinner is particularly atmospheric.
There is something about the restaurant’s layout that feels quite cobbled together. It has to be said that it would probably benefit from one less table on the top floor, but the at times cramped conditions seem to add to its charm. There is a courtyard garden at the back, which is wonderful for summer meals; in these post-smoking ban days, it’s the perfect answer for those who haven’t yet managed to kick the dreaded habit. Downstairs is an intimate dining room, ideal for private functions.
The restaurant wouldn’t be out of place in Paris. You can imagine bohemian artists coming here to chill out and work on their latest oeuvre. Service is attentive; however, some of the waiters are friendlier than others.
Go with an appetite. The portions are huge and the food is top notch. You won’t be able to manage three courses, even though you will wish you had a bigger stomach to make room for more. Just like the restaurant itself, the menu takes influences from a variety of sources but can best be described as far-east Asian and Mediterranean fusion. Aurora regulars will know that it is sometimes advisable, however, to avoid dishes with broth-type sauces as these can tend to leave the dish swimming.
Whether your taste buds are looking for something simple or something a little more intriguing, your requirements will be catered for. Recommended starters include red lentil and coconut soup and king prawns with chilli and lime dressing (£4 - £6 each). The addition of coconut to the soup serves to highlight the chef’s ability to put an interesting and welcome twist on a warming winter favourite. Aurora does fish particularly well and the prawns are no exception.
Recommended mains include corn fed chicken breast on mashed potato, fine beans with mango chutney and salsa verde and teriyaki salmon on bok choy, oyster mushrooms with jasmine rice, sweet chilli and soya dressing and wasabi mayo (about £14 each). Whilst on first glance, one might be tempted to think that there might be too many flavours in some of the dishes, but nothing could be further from the truth. The diverse tastes in the salmon dish, for instance, work well together and don’t clash for attention. They're complemented well by the light and fragrant rice.
Whilst the house wines are very palatable, fans of heavier whites will be particularly pleased by what the wine list offers. You can pick up a real treat of a Chilean white with a strong pineapple aftertaste for £16.
The Last Word
Aurora’s biggest drawback is that there are two dinner sittings: 7pm and 9pm. 7pm is fine for a quick bite to eat, but go for the 9pm sitting if you don’t want to be hurried out if your dining time overruns.