Aubergine, Marlow Bridge

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I was with my best friend, which perhaps intensified the romantic atmosphere of the Compleat Angler, as there was no pesky real-life man to spoil it. The restaurant that now houses Aubergine has been here for donkey’s years, since its low-slung, vaulted, leaded interior was the height of the mode. (The panels in the cocktail lounge have been there for four centuries, apparently. The restaurant itself feels like English heritage via the 1930s. You can picture discreet affairs conducted in the dying days of the aristocracy. It’s all tremendously exciting.) The set menu (£45 for two courses, £55 for three) was preceded by a frankly horrid amuse-bouche – pickled anchovies that tasted of vinegar, on top of pickled carrots that tasted alarmingly of vinegar, drizzled in a saffron oil that was no match for the vinegar. I didn’t mind, to be honest. It seemed to be a new twist on the amuse concept – not a palate cleanser so much as a palate stripper. And it made us so grateful for our delicious starters.

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