From the outside, Restaurant Aubergine had a simple sign, some outdoor seating and a little buzz to it, albeit it looked rather small. Whilst there were a few customers sitting in the outdoor seating and one or two inside, the restaurant did not appear to be overtly busy and this raised a little concern inside my mind. However, having now experienced Restaurant Aubergine, I have to tell you that it must be Bucharest’s Old Town’s best kept secret and I would definitely recommend that you visit it as soon as possible and before the food gods spread the word about the outstanding food and setting in which it is served in. Located at Strada Smârdan 33, București 030073 in the Lipscani district, Aubergine is one restaurant to not only watch but to visit right now.
Looks can be deceiving; not a small eatery at all
The setting of the restaurant is such that there is a small amount of outdoor seating in front of the restaurant and then a few tables and chairs inside on the ground floor. The ground floor is also home to the bar, which serves wines, cocktails and gourmet snacks. The bar is covered with white tiles and dim lighting, so a clinical yet relaxing feeling. There are small tables and chairs placed around it, giving it a Parisian café like feel.
My initial impression that the restaurant was small was quickly eradicated when my dining companion and I were taken to the first floor of the restaurant. The first floor included three unique and distinctive sections that represented eclectic and original décor to the maximum. Each section was uniquely designed and had relaxing and soft music playing in the background. There was a real quaint and charming atmosphere about it.
The first section was the “Bottles of Wine Salon”, which consisted of a very sophisticated yet warm area that included shelves and shutters with a magnitude of wines. Attached to this section was also a small glass room that housed 90 wine labels from all over the world. The second section was the “Tree Salon”, which was a light and airy space that used bright primary colours and whitewash to give a fresh and bold look to the area. It was a wonderful section in which one could have a snack or full lunch course.
The third section, which overlooks the main street in the Old Town is called the, “Oval Parlour” and is the most striking of seating areas of out the three. This is because its walls are covered with 300 abandoned doors from buildings in Transylvania, Austria and Hungary; the doors represent that the individuals who used to live behind them had stories, just as you and I are creating our own stories as we go along in life.
The waiter/waitress will provide you with the option as to where you would like to be seated. Unsurprisingly, I choose the “Oval Parlour” as it had a real rustic feel to it; I felt like I was in a very stylish, spacious and cosy living room.
Gorgeous Mediterranean food with an Israeli fusion
Once seated, you will be presented with a menu which will be written in Romanian and English. Aubergine advocates and offers healthy Mediterranean food with an Israeli fusion and therefore, this menu will be very different to others that you would have or will see in Bucharest. The menu is categorised into starters, salads, soups, pastas, mains and sides and is easy to work through.
For starters, my fellow diner and I ordered the “Falafel În Trei Culori”, which consists of three falafels on a bed of hummus with a gorgeously diced side salad. The cost of this rather large starter was 23 LEI (5 USD). We also ordered the “De Linte Neagra cu Rodie si Legume”, which is a black pearl lentil salad with pomegranate and fresh veggies, costing 26 LEI (6 USD), in addition to the “Humus Facut in Casa cu Ulei de Masline”, which is homemade hummus with olive oil and cost 16 LEI (4 USD).
However, the reason that we ordered this was not simply my love for hummus but because the falafel dish did not state that it included hummus, so I would advise you to ask questions if there is not enough detail in the description on the menu. Nevertheless, all three dishes tasted very healthy and the plates were beautifully decorated. Aubergine certainly is a lovely spot of Mediterranean flavours in the centre of Bucharest.
Ultra generous portions and some perfectly balanced dishes
For the main course, my dining companion and I decided to order and share an aubergine pasta with eggplant, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, zucchini and carrot, costing 30 LEI (7 USD). To accompany this main, we also ordered a number of sides including oven-baked rustic veggies with dates and honey for 14 LEI (3 USD), a homemade bread with turmeric and a homemade bread with beetroot, each costing 7 LEI (2 USD). As superb as the starters were, the main and the accompanying side dishes did not disappoint and were equally as delicious. Expect to have some perfectly seasoned dishes at Aubergine.
The aubergine pasta dish tasted wonderfully; the flavoursome sundried tomatoes with the olives adds a salty flavour that is balanced well with the neutral zucchini and the sweet carrot slices. The dish is beautiful and it was quite clear that Chef Ronen Meri focuses on bringing out and working with the natural flavours in each vegetable and finding ways in which a combination of vegetables can work well together to create a balanced dish with substance and style. The flavours in the homemade bread are powerful and will stand the test of educating your taste buds on something new. Again, I was surprised as I am not a fan of beetroot yet was able to devour a slice of the bread within minutes and between you and I, there were stages during the dining experience where I had to remind myself to share the bread with my fellow diner.
With the size of the starters and the sides being equivalent to the size of the main, you can imagine how much food there will be for you to consume during this dining experience. As a result, if I were to enjoy this tantalizing meal again, I would consider ordering less items at the onset. This is an important point that I must advise you in respect to dining in Bucharest. The Romanians are generous individuals that love to feed their guests; they want to make sure that you do not leave hungry! However, as a consequence, you may find yourself having far too much food than anticipated, so please do be mindful when ordering. For once, I was not able to order dessert because I was so completely and utterly full.
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Tasteful, simple and in a league of its own
Unconventional to the old towns of a number of European cities, the Old Town in Bucharest is most well known for its popular restaurants, bars and nightlife. Aubergine, unlike the other establishments that have made their home in the Old Town, breaks away from the wild party spirit of its neighbourhood and provides a very classy environment in which to try wonderful food. From the first floor of the restaurant, there is a window with shutters and when opened, diners can see the architecture that has formed the capital city’s Old Town.
After peering out of this beautiful window, I glanced at the menu on my table and saw a statement that had been included in bold and was on the side of one of the pages. The statement said, “Don’t over complicate — simplicity itself is tasteful” and this made me smile because it speaks volumes about the ambiance of Aubergine and its food. The restaurant is plain from its exterior and has a sophisticated shabby chic feel to its interior; it’s quite simple and that’s what makes it tasteful and best placed in the famous and historic Old Town. Aubergine does not need multi-coloured flashy disco lights and large speakers to churn out music, like a number of the other residents of the Old Town and this, alongside the delicious food is why you should visit it.
Sit back and enjoy the views of the Old Town from the first floor of the restaurant. Sip one of the many fresh drinks offered on the drink menu or treat yourself to a cocktail or mocktail and celebrate the fact that you would have eaten in one of Bucharest’s best kept secrets: Aubergine. I would recommend that you try the “Green Apple” for 14 LEI (3 USD), which consists of green apple juice, limes and brown sugar; perfect for a warm summery afternoon.
An "aubergenius" combination
Aubergine (also known as eggplant) is more than just a vegetable being served in Old Town, Bucharest. It is a gorgeous eatery that will provide you with a true gourmet experience in an original and unique environment and I am delighted to recommend it as a top restaurant in which to have lunch or dinner in Bucharest. The amount of thought in respect to the location, décor and cuisine that has been conjured by Chef Ronen Meri is “aubergenius”. I am so glad that my feet entered this outstanding restaurant. Despite the portion sizes being rather large, as the food was healthy and had all the right ingredients to energise me, I felt great about my experience and I am sure that if you visit Aubergine too, you will feel exactly the same. Next time that I am in Bucharest, I know where I will be heading for my first meal!
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