New Bar & Restaurant: The Aubrey

New Bar & Restaurant: The Aubrey

Maximal Concepts’ izakaya atop Mandarin Oriental is a feast for the eyes

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Foodie  Foodie Your Guide to Good Taste  on 26 Feb '21


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When Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental closed last summer, we wondered what could ever be big enough to fill the shoes of this long-standing, two-Michelin-starred restaurant. Now, the refurbishment of the 25th floor at this luxury hotel has been unveiled, with Maximal ConceptsThe Aubrey bringing a whole lotta buzz and doing a fine job of standing in Pierre’s wake.

And there really is a lot to like about The Aubrey, starting with the awesome views. Then there’s the space itself, designed by Maximal and Silverfox Studios to evoke the feel of a quirky art collector’s penthouse apartment, focusing on Japanism, a 19th-century European art movement inspired by the love of all things Japanese.

Moody, wood-panelled entranceway lined with Japanese-inspired artwork


The Aubrey is a warren of sumptuously decorated rooms, alcoves and nooks and crannies showcasing a unique East-meets-West attention to detail. From those wanting to let off steam after work with a drink or two to couples seeking a spot for a romantic tête-à-tête, there’s a room or bar and vibe for everyone. We were sat in the bright, airy and mirror-filled curio lounge with its beautiful tropical wall paintings, which we think would make an ideal spot for afternoon tea once it’s been launched.


The curio lounge, bathed in natural light


The Victorian-esque drawing room

First and foremost, The Aubrey is a bar, led by Devender Sehgal, the former head mixologist at 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, and there are three distinct bar experiences here. The Main Bar is only for walk-ins, featuring a menu inspired by the game of chess; we tried the aptly named Two Bishops ($160), made with aged rum, rye whisky, citrus, matcha and clarified milk, which we found sweet yet slightly medicinal in flavour. There will be a core selection of highball and chuhai cocktails as well as seasonal, ingredient-driven tipples.

Next on the bar front is the intimate, four-person omakase bar, where cocktail-led menus spotlighting Japanese spirits and flavours are offered.

Finally, if bubbly’s your thing, check out the champagne and sake bar at the back, which also serves obscure (but delicious) sparkling sakes paired with oysters.

Another plus for The Aubrey is its commitment to sustainability, a notable focus for all Maximal establishments. Zero waste is the name of the game, and their goal is to completely remove the use of all single-use plastics, from using the world’s first compostable cling film to sourcing bamboo and paper products from sustainable sources.

The food at The Aubrey is crafted by veteran Japanese chef Yukihito Tomiyama and his team. Most recently at the helm of Michelin-starred Shinji by Kanesaka in Macau, Chef Tomiyama’s menu presents classic Japanese ingredients and flavours in creative, modern dishes – but here’s our caveat – at eye-watering prices.


Take this selection of starters, snacks and salads we sampled and note that these are the regular portion sizes. The bouncy scallop jelly ($138) was enhanced by pops of briny tobiko, while the seaweed salad ($108) was light and refreshing, containing a variety of seaweed. These dishes were both tasty yet forgettable, but it was the gomae ($178), a traditional Japanese dish of baby aubergine and shiitake in sesame sauce, that really had us raising our eyebrows owing to the simple ingredients and small portion size. Why such a high price tag?

The omakase platter ($688 for nigiri or $788 for sashimi) was unremarkable when considering the fish choices. When something is dubbed ”omakase”, we expect a unique sushi selection, not your standard salmon and tuna. The rice was also more al dente than we are used to in premium sushi.

On the other hand, we don’t often get to indulge in monkfish liver maki ($358), showcasing the liver’s creamy texture yet surprisingly delicate flavour.


The buttery, silky Saikyo miso sablefish ($418) – a fancy name for black cod – was the standout of our meal, but we struggle to justify its price.

We enjoyed the flavour and texture that the sea urchin added to this umami-rich lobster and Hokkaido uni fried rice ($378), but we just wish there had been more of it in this pretty red bowl.


Chef Tomiyama’s signature dessert is this white miso soufflé ($118). It was textbook perfect in appearance and execution with its puffed crown and wobbly centre, but we recommend this one only to those who prefer more savoury flavours. It’s also on the eggy side – so you’ll either love it or you won’t.


Verdict

Despite our quibbles with the price tags, we still love the concept, decor and vibe at The Aubrey and think it will be a big hit, especially once COVID restrictions ease and the DJ booth opens on Friday and Saturday eves with its collection of 500 Japanese house vinyls. It’s a gorgeous spot for three very special bar experiences, with views to match.


25/F, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central, 2825 4001, book online


This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.


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