If you challenged a designer to recreate the interior of Andrew Edmunds, a Soho legend that sits stubbornly among shiny new upstarts, they would struggle.
It doesn’t have a look, it just is. Maybe you could describe it as 80s wine bar but that is to seriously overplay its nonchalant understatedness. They basically designed it some time ago and haven’t done a lot since.
Not that it is shabby (hmmm) but it is a symbol of a bygone Soho that has stood the test of time because it is so unpretentious and the food very welcoming. The menu – lemon sole, Arbroath smokie, lamb sweetbreads – could be from 30 years ago (when the joint was very much on its way to ‘institution’ status) but it remains on point.
But AE has x factor. Not bubblegum poppy, Simon Cowelly X Factor, but something you can’t quite put your finger on. The genial atmosphere, everyone is perfectly professional but relaxed. It’s seen as a bit quirky in a world where restaurants are designed down to the finest detail and staff drilled to military standards.
And wine is a thing here, even though the restaurant was started in the original antiques shop (I bet that was a boozy lunch the day someone said, “I know, let’s open a bloody restauraaant!) Historically there has been a restaurant here (and sometimes not) for over 100 years, and in the 80s, when Soho was a byword for sleaze, AE was a destination.
Now it is seen as a throwback by some, but not the regulars, those who crave some Franco-Brit comfort and a stunning glass of vino. Why not, old boy?