The problem (or advantage, depends if you’re having a half full or half empty day) with living in London is that your bucket list of places to go and things to do is never ending. You’re never going to make it to every restaurant, it’s just not going to happen – unless you want to give up your job and embark on a continuous 24/7 eating fest. So you need to choose wisely and one place that had been on my list for a while was Randall & Aubin, the Soho institute that originally opened as London’s first French butchers in 1908 before merging into a seafood restaurant in 1996.
Having heard so much about it, it’s always recommended by my friends, always appearing on lists of top places to visits – I imagined it to be somewhat bigger, but the restaurant is small, intimate with marble topped counters and high stools. You can see why they don’t take bookings, you’d never get a seat being that small and popular. It’s rather like a microcosm of Soho: with a dash of history in the form of the white tiles and the original butcher’s shop Victorian fittings; a large mirror ball provides the camp element and a whole load of enthusiasm from the staff and the music.
The menu is made up of the likes of oysters, Plats de Fruits de Mer, whole lobster, crab and lemon risotto, Scottish halibut as well as chicken, burgers and steak – but when you see the abundant seafood counter you know that it would be wrong not to go for seafood.
We started with a round of Porn Star Martinis, (what else do you have on a Wednesday?); 6 plump, beautifully fresh Irish oysters and a generous portion of calamari frites, cooked just the way calamari should be, not at all greasy but still with that crisp batter coating, spiked with pimento salsa.
This was followed by a whole lobster, which was a little deceiving in how much flesh there was and could do with a little more butter – there was a lot on the plate but it had seeped into the salad rather than the lobster and no one needs limp lettuce. Garlic roasted Mediterranean prawns came with a mound of golden, salty French fries and we had to add more chips with a portion of zucchini frites that reassuringly were thick but hadn’t suffered from going soggy as they so often do. We rounded it off with a silky smooth baked cheese cake and another glass of wine.
Randall & Aubin is a great one, perfect for dates (maybe not your first date unless you’re planning on getting particularly cosy), ideal for catching up with friends and for starting off a night before heading on to one of Soho’s bars.