A brash and funloving oyster joint in the heart of Soho
Category : Restaurant
| Cuisine : Seafood
Address : 14-16 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0SG, UNITED KINGDOM - Directions
Web : www.randallandaubin.com
Opening Times : Mon-Thurs 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-10pm
Closest Tube : Picadilly Circus
Randall & Aubin is the kind of establishment that could only exist in a major metropolis. Nestled on Brewer Street in Soho amongst the scuffle of sex shops, cichetti joints, wine bars and nightclubs, Randall & Aubin has been around since the days of Winston Churchill and is as much a fixture of Soho as Paul Raymond was in the 70s. When you cross the threshold into the restaurant, seat yourself on a stool and lean into one of the many marble high-tops interspersed throughout the dining room, you get a sense of the same licentiousness, cheek and fun that is synonymous with its surroundings.
There's something winningly strident about the restaurant. It has the feel that you'd expect in New York or Paris. Small, loud and brazen - it's the type of place where you might find yourself unintentionally dining with an attractive set of neighbours. Originally founded in 1908, Randall & Aubin was one of London's premium grocers, serving as a butchery, a bakery and a cheesemonger and making sure that the well-heeled residents of W1 were fatted around the chin. These included the aforementioned prime minister. In 1996 the site was purchased by Ed Baines and Jamie Poulton and retrofitted to become Britain's hippest oyster bar.
On any evening later in the week there will inevitably be a queue, but the anticipation lends the experience a frisson of excitement and a sense of arrival when you're brought to the table. Inside, there's an engaging dynamic between old and new. Original alabaster tiled walls, wooden gantries and Art Deco style lighting imbue the room with a worn and authentic feel, which is juxtaposed by trendy chandeliers and an outsized disco ball. On top of this, the room is pumped full of deep house beats, which successfully creates a party atmosphere in a seafood restaurant, a setting where diners can sometimes be reverent to a fault…
The real lynchpin of the operation is the food. Baines and Poulton have taken great pains to ensure that their produce is sustainable and impeccably fresh. It's cooked to perfection and served with the fine wines - however, the star tipple here is the champagne. One our visit we opted for a bottle of the house champagne, crafted by the Moutard Family from pinot noir grapes. It was crisp and delicious, pairing perfectly with a dozen Fine de Claire oysters from Brittany. The oysters came with a miniature, R&A branded pitcher of mignonette, but we preferred slurping them down in the way our superb server demonstrated: by emptying half the brine out of the halfshell and topping it up with wine.
To complement this we ordered crabcakes - three little orbs of crab meat and breadcrumbs fried to the ideal crispness and served with a spicy remoulade. For our mains we opted for the langoustines, dipping their sweet white flesh in a creamy garlic butter. Crispy lemon sole was described to us by our waitress as a chic version of fish and chips and indeed it was, perched atop razor thin, crunchy sautéed fingerlings. For dessert, you can't go wrong with their famous affogato - with the option of spiking espresso with a shot of Bailey's - which of course we did.
Taking everything into stride, London is a better city for having a restaurant like Randall & Aubin. Perfect for an entertaining date or to line the system prior to an evening out on the town, Randall & Aubin is laidback dining at its best.