This Brewer Street stal­wart headed up by Ed Baines is the type of place you’d re­visit time and again

Food and Travel (UK) - - Competition -

While there are many ‘bistros’ up and down the UK cham­pi­oning au­then­tic­ity, there are few that really com­pare with what you’ll find in France. Many try too hard, are too pricey or are sim­ply too di­luted by their ‘con­cept’ to be bone fide. Thank­fully, none of these ap­ply with Ran­dall & Au­bin.

Fa­mil­iar, con­vivial and serv­ing up su­perb An­glo-French seafood and ro­tis­serie at very fair prices, it’s the kind of place you’ll go back to, fre­quently. The pe­tite Vic­to­rian din­ing room with its orig­i­nal cream-tiled walls, Parisian chan­de­liers and open kitchen dates back to 1911, when it served as a butcher’s shop to the city’s elite. Co-founders Jamie Poul­ton (a for­mer bro­ker) and chef Ed Baines are the guys be­hind it, and have carved its place on the vi­brant Soho scene over 21 years with an ethos of in­for­mal din­ing that show­cases qual­ity in­gre­di­ents with a nod to tra­di­tion.

We visit late af­ter­noon on a bank hol­i­day Mon­day. The rest of town is quiet, but here there’s al­ready a queue curv­ing out of the door for a ta­ble. The con­certina win­dows that run the length of the din­ing room are open wide car­ry­ing the breeze and the sound of chat­ter. At-ease lo­cals en­joy­ing jovial catch-ups and cosy third dates sit side by side with the odd tourist at the mar­ble-topped com­mu­nal ta­bles.

The long-stand­ing menu will find the sweet spot of ev­ery palate.

The scent of bistro clas­sics hangs in the air: oys­ters, steam­ing bowls of gar­licky moules and steak frites with a soupçon of mus­tard. Crisp crab cakes are served with zingy lime mayo, while silken white-onion soup with tar­ragon is a light way to start. The assi­ette of mixed seafood fea­tures bat­tered skate wing, grilled cod and tuna with a mus­sel cream sauce and chive-dressed new pota­toes. Each fish sings with flavour. Chicken comes smoth­ered with gutsy herbs, and is best paired with Em­men­tal-topped gratin Dauphi­noise. For dessert, deca­dent and dark choco­late cake comes with milk ice cream.

You can only book for week­day lunches, but there’s some­thing at­mo­spheric about sip­ping cham­pagne and watch­ing the rev­elry of other din­ers as you wait. And good news for our friends in the North: a Manch­ester branch has just opened, bring­ing the same ex­cel­lent menu to Bridge Street. BG. 020 7287 4447, ran­dal­lan­

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