It doesn’t do Aura justice to say it’s in the shadow of The Ritz, but it does describe its location. Seconds off Piccadilly and a comfortable four inch heeled totter from Green Park, this basement club isn’t your usual below-ground destination. For a start, it’s not dreadfully dark. Lit perfectly with changing coloured up-lit spotlights against swirly, smoke-patterned walls, the lilac and pale grey room is two tiered with tables on the higher level offering more privacy. The remaining booths and tables for two are right in the thick of the action with some larger tables against orange, green and purple disco panels the length of one wall. Surprisingly, even the tables bordering the central dance floor retain their intimacy.
Past the quilted leather DJ booth, the bar area is spacious and chilled. The initial matching uniformity of highly polished perspex Champagne buckets and pretty candles is soon washed away when a tide of customers turn up with their specific requests.
There’s no denying the people at Aura are hot, although some of them really know it. Nevertheless, don’t even entertain the idea of turning up unless you are seriously sizzling. That goes for personality, too. The moneyed minxes and Mayfair men are looking for the whole package and are an exigent breed. Drinks are served up by a matching uniformity of highly polished, articulate and, yes, bubbly hostesses in chemistry defying, skintight, metallic purple spandex.
Since tables book up weeks in advance, you’re advised to make a booking. Queuing is likely for one of the exclusive 17 tables if you don’t reserve. Thankfully, the door policy isn’t pedantic and a friendly wait merits standing space inside eventually.
The music is a bit obvious with upbeat RnB easing drinkers into the night and party hits, pop and disco to follow up once things get going. One or two odd tunes are thrown in, which the crowd seems to like, but are bizarrely reminiscent of Aussie backpacker hostel bar music - the stuff that makes people jump on tables and wail at the tops of their voices or bounce around in groups. With a centrally placed dance floor, the music has to be the kind that gets everyone going because failure to dance is a big no-no. It’s certainly accessible.
Aura’s versatile back bar will satisfy any palate and therein lies its success. With drinks priced at £10, the cocktail list is purposefully feminine and vodka-focused, while the whiskey and rum selection is mature and manly.
The Rose Petal Cooler is an exotic, heady blend of lychee juice, rose petal syrup and Finlandia vodka resulting in a beautiful candy pink hue to the drink. However, if rose petals are a touch too princessy for you, equally aromatic is the Bramble. Although Bombay Sapphire is not as extraordinary as many of the club’s spirits, the addition of cardamom in this cocktail is inspired as it picks up the botanicals in the gin. It’s also heavy on the creme de mure.
Fruitier cocktails of varying blends are prepared with care. Raspberries Are Red is a sophisticated but bold statement drink of vodka thickened with tart raspberry puree in a sensational lipstick rouge. A more warming choice is the Rhubarb and Custard Martini, a sharp mix of rhubarb liqueur and demerera Bacardi 8 that could benefit from a touch more texture. For something more rich and velvety, try Very Cherry Cooler with guava juice, maraschino and 42 Below. As expected, the classics are done well too and with quality alcohol, made to taste.
Aura is a party place though, and for groups there’s nothing like sharing. Apart from anything else, it’s better value than the pricey singles and doubles list. £110 will get you a bottle of chilled Grey Goose and a mixer of the night such as cranberry or orange juice. Champagne starts at £160 for Moet Vintage, £155 for the rose and £350 for Cristal. Of course, if it’s a real party there are always the magnums. With such a list, it’s tough to decide between cocktails and Champagne, so for a happy medium choose from the long line of Champagne cocktails (£12). Lychee makes an appearance in many of these cocktails like the Pin Vin with Chambord, Belvedere vodka and Champagne.
The Last Word
One thing you can’t fail to notice at Aura is that everybody is having a good time. Although the pampering service and luxury drinks come with a hefty price tag, it’s to be expected from a Mayfair club. If you’re going to go, throw yourself into the party hard spirit and be prepared to pay for the privilege. And remember, it's members' only.