In London’s food scene, it is really not fashionable to blog about a restaurant that opened eighteen months ago. Uh-uh. Nopey no. You’re a dead-as-a-do-do kind of blogger if that’s your caper.
Eighteen days since the whizzy ‘launch party’ and many bloggers have forgotten to pen their promised ‘review’, moving on to the next shiny, sparkly, bubbly venue.
A blog about a restaurant that’s eighteen years old, well that’s just so un-hip as to have almost traversed the 360 loop to qualify as cool. So here’s my un-hip/cool post about the seriously fabulous eighteen-year old London stalwart, Randall and Aubin.
I can’t start this post in any way other than to pen this word. Oysters. There are few better places in London to procure a sweet, briny, creamy, slimy knob of the sea, than Randall and Aubin. Fresh and delicious, they are carefully procured, stored and shucked. They are delivered to the diner with suitable fanfare, often on a silver pedestal and served with a perfectly dressed half lemon, in an adorable bonnet and some sweet-sharp vinaigrette. I read somewhere that the French poet Léon-Paul Fargue, thought eating an oyster was “like kissing the sea on the lips.” You could de worse than to pop into Randall and Aubin for a good pash.
In a previous life Randall and Aubin was a fancy pants French butcher. It was, in fact, London’s very first French butcher, established in 1908. Over the decades it grew, adding a bakery and then a cheese arm to the business. Legend has it that Sir Winston Churchill was a fan of fine French things and popped in from time to time to procure francophilic delights.
When Jamie Poulton and Ed Baines took it on in 1996 they carefully retained much of the beauty of it’s previous life. Sure they’ve thrown in a disco ball here and there (and why wouldn’t you?), but the black and white bevelled edge tiling, the meat hooks and the globe lamps offer a nostalgic nod to the building’s many years of service to Soho. I’m a soft touch, but I do love how they describe themselves as “not being owners, but custodians of this iconic site”. *Sigh.
Back to the present and a bit more about the 2014 experience of the Berwick Street eatery. You know the fish is fresh when it’s displayed quite transparently in the refrigerated cabinet in the window for all to see. The lure of a coral red lobster is hard to resist when its eyes are shiny and bright and it looks fresh enough to suggest that it may have just popped in for a chat earlier that day.
If you’re not a fishy kind, the viandes (rotisserie) offers options that are good enough for your seafood-loving companions to have to disguise their food-envy.
I can’t hit the final fullstop without a word about the service, which, on each of my visits, has been exemplary. Restaurant Manager, Andres Salcedo ensures things are kept lively and informal whilst making sure the ship steers in the direction of good service and great customer experience. A delightful captain to have on such an elegant and comfortable ship.
It’s not easy to keep your head bobbing above the water line in this fickle business of food and restaurants, especially in a city as prone to fashions and fads as London. To have done so for eighteen years, whilst maintaining an exceptionally high quality product is an achievement indeed. It mightn’t be fashionable to be this ‘old’, but I’m sure many of the shiny, sparkly, bubbly venues wouldn’t mind reaching the milestone.
Happy eighteenth, Randall and Aubin.
Randall and Aubin
14-16 Brewer Street