Soho has many sides to its personality, and among the partygoers and clubs are a few real hideaways that hark back to the days when Soho was quirky and just a bit special. Randall and Aubin reminds us firmly of this.
Randall and Aubin is located within an old butcher’s shop, and that goes some way to explaining why it has such a feeling of authenticity. For a start, the exterior is incredibly inviting, with a large black canopy, swirling signage, and old wooden front with large windows offering glimpses of what’s going on within. And inside is very cool. A neutral colour scheme punctuated by lots of warm wood is given a hint of glamour thanks to the long marble-topped bench seating complete with high-backed stools, chandeliers, black and white photos, and neat displays of the restaurant’s wares, including an iced display cabinet showing off all the fresh fish and seafood. Sure, it can be a little cramped and you may have to share a table with – gasp – strangers but hey, this is Soho, after all.
Randall and Aubin has a cosy authenticity to it that is very hard not to be charmed by. This is a place that is quintessentially Soho without trying to be, so the atmosphere is laid back, full of chatter and laughter, and is just... well, nice. And the staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming, offering a spot of banter between courses so you’ll barely notice the sometimes overly-long wait for food. Funky house and even a disco ball give a little nod to the area, and you do feel just a little bit special when you see a long queue beginning to form outside - get there early.
The menu (from Ed Baines) is unpretentious French food with a focus on high flavour, although the prices aren’t the cheapest for Soho, with starters priced at £8.85 to £18.50 and mains £10.85 to £27. However, if you’re smart with what you order then you can enjoy a good meal here without maxing out the credit card.
For example, a starter of one of four soups costs just £3.25. And the tomato and sweet basil soup is actually very good. Well seasoned, nicely thick and with a sweetness that’s tempered by the peppery flavour of the basil, it’s definitely a wallet-pleasing winner. For mains, a very decent roast pork belly with apple sauce (£11.50) comes with a side order of your choice and gravy. Well portioned, the pork belly is meaty, a little fatty – although not unpleasantly so – and pleasantly salty. The apple sauce isn’t too sweet and it’s worth enjoying the dish with the creamy, soft mashed potato and rich, meaty gravy.
Alternatively, a whole dressed crab with potato salad is just £14.85 and the crab is extremely fresh, meaty and very good quality, having been well cleaned and dressed just enough to bring the flavours of the crab out without drowning it with creamy mayo and vinegar. If you do want to splash out then the oysters are particularly good, with twelve exceptional Natives coming in at £24. Well worth it if you're feeling flush.
Although the majority of the sparkling wines and Champagnes are French, it’s a shame that they don’t have some cheaper French bottles on offer, instead of allowing (perfectly decent) New World options to pick up the cheaper slack. The prices are good, ranging from £16.95 to £49, increasing to £255 for the most expensive bottle of Champagne. And if you don’t fancy wine then they offer Guinness, Budvar, Becks and Stella.
The Last Word
Randall and Aubin may not be the cheapest restaurant in Soho but for an all-round dining experience with a lot of character, it certainly excels.