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Aulis R&D at L'enclume

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Aulis is something special, unique in fact, for Simon Rogan has thrown open the doors of L'enclume's test kitchen to members of the public who want to get even closer to the food. We jumped at the opportunity therefore to have a 'light lunch' at Aulis and the result was one of the most memorable meals of our life.

Aulis is new this year with the test kitchen only recently modified to seat up to six people along the bar where you can watch your meal prepared in front of you. But don't mistake this for the chef tables you get in London restaurants for it is a significantly more personal experience. For a start, Aulis is a physically separate building to the main L'enclume restaurant/kitchen and your chef and host for the event, Dan Cox, is cooking exclusively for you. The menu too is exclusively for you with bespoke dishes that are not featured on the L'enclume menu either.

But what really distinguishes the experience from all others is the level of interaction you have with the chefs. Dan is assisted by Kevin Tickle, long standing sous chef at L'enclume and that's it; there are no waiters here to serve food or wine, it's just you and two chefs. Talk of course mostly centres on the food (at least it did with us) and Dan's open about all aspects of what they do. In our view, Dan is absolutely perfect in the role: relaxed, engaging and really willing to share, nothing is held back from you, nothing is 'top secret'.

And then there's the food. Those familiar with L'enclume will know what style of food to expect though we were still caught a little by surprise. Having been told that we were booked in for 'a light lunch', we forgot that in L'enclume-speak, that would mean a lot of food and the menu today consisted of four 'snacks' to start and six main menu courses!

While the mise en place has been done before you arrive at Aulis, the cooking and plate assembly is performed in front of you after which Dan simply passes the finished dish across the counter for you to tuck in. So that you can see what actually takes placel.

With Dan and Kevin exposed to the watchful eye of the dining guests at Aulis, there's little room for mistakes here, but it doesn't matter for there are none and all the food presented is perfect. Crispy chicken skin the way it is supposed to be, tripe with beef strands that is intense, and a duck liver parfait and duck fat that shames the best foie gras. And as always with a meal from the Rogan stable, there's surprise ingredients aplenty with the main talking point today cod tongue - Twitter confirming that most are unaware that cod even have tongues. They are in fact like mini cod fillets: one tongue contains two of them, separated by cartilage with skin around them, served with this removed of course.

It is from start to finish a stunning display of understanding (of ingredients), genius (of composition) and excellence (in cooking).

Since discovering L'enclume last year, we have constantly urged foodies who have not been to go and eat there believing it to be the best restaurant in the UK, for it really is. Aulis however is not a restaurant, it's a test kitchen that allows you to be as close to the food production process as you are in your own kitchen. What's more, Dan makes you feel so welcome you'll feel as comfortable as you do at home in your own kitchen also. Chances are however, that's where the similarities with your own kitchen will end, and you can now sit back, relax and let Dan and Kevin cook up a world of surprises and treats.

This wasn't just a memorable meal, it was a deeply memorable and unique experience, and on that basis trumps almost everything else we've written up on for the enjoyment we took from it. In fact, we believe Aulis is the most exciting thing in the UK's restaurant scene right now.

For those that want to read more, view pictures and watch video you can take a look at our blog

The Critical Couple


Twitter @CriticalCouple

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Thanks for this. I didnt know it existed - even though we were at L'Enclume only the other week.

Seems to have also passed under the radar of our comrade-in-forks, Sped98. Alan can usually be relied on the champion all things Roganish.

(I see you've also been a guest at Nutters - one of my favourite places in the metro area, although I have to pay of course :raz: )

Edited by Harters (log)

John Hartley

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It's great when chefs expand in inventive ways like this. With all due credit, Simon's not the first to do it. Sat Bains opened a development kitchen (further to the chef's table) exactly the same as this well over a year ago. I think Ollie posted something about it in the lengthy SB thread already running actually.

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I actually think it's just great that chefs are pushing the envelope like this. And brilliant that it's going on outside London; understandable I know, but the capital has more than it's fair share of talent and venues.

Am off to Sat's later this week. First trip this year and can't bloody wait!

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