With Soho as wildly diverse in its dining scene, it is only here that you could find such an eclectic treat like Randall and Aubin. Establishing itself as a Soho landmark over the past 16 years, it was formerly a butcher shop, and has kept many of its original features to give diners an almost rural-Parisian feel. Being in Soho though, the addition of a full sound system and large glitter ball has given the interior a bohemian twist which sets the restaurant apart from your typical eatery.
With Randall and Aubin famed for its seafood, we went straight for that section of the menu. With the aforementioned French feel of the restaurant, we opted for moules marinières, and handpicked Devon crab.
Instead of serving the mussels in a pot, obscured from view, we got a huge pile on full display, like a spectacular seafood version of Jenga. The garlic, parsley and cream sauce was smooth and rich, with enough to be soaked up by the incredibly light and fluffy bread given on the side. Of course, the tenderness of the mussels was ideal, but the actual appearance of the dish was something else – the way the light caught the dark blue shells of the mussels was fantastic.
Devon crab with shrimp, avocado and pimento salsa
While many restaurants treat crab as quite a simple starter, Randall and Aubin have given their handpicked Devon offering a real centre stage treatment. Topped with two large prawns with a deep, rich pink hue, the crab was set on top of a bed of avocado and pimento salsa. The saltiness (although not overpoweringly so) of the crab combined with the zest of the salsa was given a final lift by the avocado, adding a slight spice to the mix. Setting portions on top of the lightly toasted brioche resulted in the perfect improvised bruschetta of sorts.
Spring chicken marinated in garlic and parsley butter
Although the restaurant takes huge pride in its seafood, its history as a former butcher shop has translated into an irresistible rotisserie selection on the menu. For our first main, we chose the half Spring chicken, roasted in garlic and parsley butter. The dish was wonderfully uncluttered and simple – a deep, golden brown skin on the chicken gave way to moist meat underneath that fell away from the bone with no effort at all. Although the chicken was moist enough on its own, a small amount of thick gravy was provided, which when drizzled over the chicken added a further richness to the meat.
Keeping with the simple nature of the dish, we paired it with a gratin dauphinoise. Encircling the edges of the thick cheese topping was a lightly browned, crisp crust which was the first thing we went for! Underneath, the potatoes were done to a turn, and held together with a thick, creamy sauce.
Grilled line-caught tuna with roast Mediterranean vegetables, feta cheese and an oregano tapenades
So good were our seafood starters that we went straight back for our second main – Grilled line-caught tuna with roast Mediterranean vegetables, feta cheese and an oregano tapenade. Supremely juicy, the tuna was lightly seasoned so did not clash against the flavours of the herb-infused vegetables. The addition of the feta cheese gave the dish a final salty lift to the touches of oregano.
Flaming chocolate crème brûlée
We’ve got a massive sweet tooth, and make a point of pigging out slightly on desserts, so calling something the best dessert we’ve had so far in London isn’t said lightly! However, the flambéed chocolate crème brûlée is definitely a contender for this. Brought to the table with licks of blue flame dancing off the bubbling golden crust, it was a glorious thing to have brought over. When the fire subsided and we pierced the now cool shell, the chocolate filling was incredible – creamy, yet with a faint tingle of brandy perhaps that, when combined with the caramelised crust was something else.
Lemon and raspberry tart
Our second dessert, despite not having the initial visual fireworks of the brûlée, was a masterclass in how to do a simple lemon and raspberry tart. A fluffy, almost soufflé texture was a welcome treat, as the double cream served with it could be soaked up when the tart was cut, ensuring the zestiness of the lemon didn’t become too pronounced at any stage.
Restaurants like Randall and Aubin are few and far between – the lovingly preserved feel of its butcher shop past, smartened up with a Parisian-feel and taking such pride in its ability to shift between gourmet seafood creations and simple, uncluttered classics is a feat that many establishments cannot find the right balance between. The fact that this restaurant is set in Soho yet is wonderfully subtle in its presence is just another welcome surprise.
Randall & Aubin
14-16 Brewer Street Soho, London, W1F 0SG