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Aubaine, Selfridges, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield finds Selfridges' latest food offering, the best yet, by a mile

Written by . Published on December 1st 2011.

Aubaine, Selfridges, Reviewed

THIS was unexpected. An excellent meal in Selfridges, Manchester.

The previous restaurant on the second floor seemed uncertain in its cooking, lacking in confidence. It also had uncomfortably small tables inappropriate for anybody who doesn't live with Snow White. 

Best of all was the mille feuille, aka, vanilla slice. It was the best I've eaten in years and years and years. Forget the filling the pastry was a masterpiece in itself. The key being a sneaky swipe of cinnamon in the pastry mix

This pop-up Aubaine is more roomy and all together breezier in decor with a feature wall in blue-grey. The dread words 'pop' and 'up' are involved because in spring next year it will close before re-opening fully refurbed and spruced up.

Aubaine began as a bakers and patisserie in London, as did cafe-chain Patisserie Valerie. Aubaine seems to have looked at the latter's expansion and thought we can do that with restaurants and better food. 

So after a successful occupation of Selfridges in London, the city centre Manchester branch has followed suit. And there's not only the second floor restaurant here either but also an Aubaine coffee and tea room in the basement. 

Try the second floor outlet first, the food is outstanding. 

The flaking, falling flesh of the pigs cheeks (£15.50) was a delight as was the beautifully balanced, not too sweet, correctly heated Dijon mustard sauce that covered them. The cabbage and sweet carrot veg accompaniment was perfectly timed and prepared too, and juicy folks - a stunner of a second fiddle dish component.

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The tiger prawn dish (£16) with bok choy and chilli in a superb stock was put together with almost an artist's eye for how food presentation should go - see main picture above at the top of this article. As soon as you saw it you wanted to dive in and enjoy. The shitake mushrooms gave the dish an earthy stability and the chilli gave it zing. The stock, eaten later with a spoon, was the very opposite of the character-free weak rubbish I'd had in Rules, London, (click here) a couple of weeks earlier. 

The fries in the corny cone were another triumph, moist yet with bags of crispy crunch. 

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The array of dainty cakes and pudds on a platter was exquisite. Prices start from £3.95. 

The Gateau de Maison, house cake of course, was a sponge with almond and peaches and was never dry, but just-so moist and the right side of sweetness.

But best of all was the mille feuille, aka vanilla slice. It was the best I've eaten in years and years and years. The wonderful filling aside, the pastry was a masterpiece. The key being a sneaky swipe of cinnamon in the pastry mix.  A glass of 2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes (£5.75) helped along the mille feuille.

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The winelist is tight and appealing. The Albarino Terras Gauda O'Rosal from 2009 is an attractive offer, as is the Chateau Clos Grand Faurie St Emilion. These are attractive in what they can bring to the palate, not in the prices, which are ridiculously steep - £39 for the Albarino.

First 63 Degrees, and now Aubaine, next year L'Entrecote. We're having a mini-French revolution. 

The only concern lies in Aubaine's empire building which seems almost Cafe Rouge-like in its ambition. If we have twenty Aubaines around the country will the attention to detail slip, will economies of scale centralise supplies and dullen the product? Let's hope not.

The only major compromise to the good work was the odious and unwelcome spectacle of London barbarism on the bill. A 12.5% service charge always makes me sick. I was going to leave a 15% cash tip but I went for the imposition and arrogance of this charge instead. And now given the excellent service I feel mean. 

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Dear Aubaine, this ain't the capital and we can think for ourselves. Ditch the service charge - unless of course you want to give the impression you are doing something sinister and keeping money back to pile on the profit and loss rather than sharing it out among the staff?

12.5% arrogance aside, the food is very good here. That mille feuille is worth a trip every day, as are those pigs cheeks.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Selfridges Manchester
Exchange Square, M3 1BD, 0161 838 0571

Rating: 15/20
Food: 8/10
Service: 4/5 
Ambience: 3/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: we gets carried away.

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Mark GarnerDecember 1st 2011.

Bloody hell, my prediction that French is the new Italian is coming to pass. And, what's this, Schofield has mastered the G12 House Cameras! Great pictures. Me on a fcking diet as well :-(

1 Response: Reply To This...
James SpencerDecember 1st 2011.

believe it when we see it...:-)... is it one of these two stone of in 7 days?.... and where is the eatery for that reviewed?

suzyblewDecember 1st 2011.

how's the diet going?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mark GarnerDecember 1st 2011.

Five weeks in, lost 22lb, blood sugars a tad above normal (normally double for me) and bloodnpressure normal. Three weeks to go.

SleuthDecember 1st 2011.

The pictures are truly magnificent, better than Gordo's.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 2nd 2011.

Still, you need to get that photographer back who used to photo your food reviews and charge very reasonable rates.

AnonymousDecember 1st 2011.

Looks interesting, but those prices and outrageous assumed service charge? Doubt I'll bother.

Mark GarnerDecember 2nd 2011.

Fat Boy Fat Anonymous, you sound like a cheerful chap, send me your email so I can invite you round this Xmas day

bonvonnieDecember 8th 2011.

I made my husband take me here for my birthday, after reading the reviews, and we both were not disappointed. a bit on the pricey side, but worth it. will definately be visiting again.

Robin DurkanDecember 19th 2011.

We booked in a couple of weeks ago for the in-laws annual Christmas visit after reading the review here & were really looking forward to it...until 2 hours before we were booked in & got a call saying the shop (and therefore the restaurant) was now due to close at 8 so we "might like to come earlier so we can fit our meal in".
Apparently the separate entrance is not ready yet, so why offer a service if you are not ready?!
We then had a mad scramble to find a restaurant on one of the busiest nights of the year.

fussycowFebruary 26th 2012.

If you think Aubaine deserves a 15/20 now, you really missed a treat in the original brompton road location- was a million times better. And i'm sure before they expanded they didn't have the automatic +12.5% service.

Croissants and homemade jams make it well worth having breakfast out...

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