Rabdall & Aubin has become a Soho institution, but its approach is still as fresh as its seafood. Chef and co-owner Ed Baines spoke to HotJoint
A restaurant still going in Soho since 1996 is an unusual thing?
EB: Randall & Aubin used to be a different beast. In 1908 it was a bourgeois-like butchery. Their selection of French cheeses was so glamorous that even today it would be not hard to experience a sappy and nostalgic ‘Paris-je-t-aime-feeling’. With Soho becoming a more exuberant and multicultural environment in the 60s, Randall & Aubin had to adapt while keeping its identity. Don’t tell the Frenchies but seems like they are doing an excellent job.
An oyster and champagne bar in Soho. How and why?
EB: Soho was completely destroyed after World War Two and therefore it needed to be rebuilt from scratch. The area was under the control of the Duke of Westminster and that helped the area to be more independent. In the 60s, Soho was then transformed from an area for bourgeois-type hunters – hunters used to shout “So-ho!” whenever they spotted their preys, hence the name – into a rebellious destination that still today is dominated by sex-shops, clippers and funky underwear.
Why take an old-style brand rather than creating a new quirky concept?
EB: For decades Randall & Aubin has been providing high-quality food and premium products. The fact that it used to supply the Ritz and the Savoy as well as being frequented by London’s high society – including Sir Winston Churchill – gives you an idea.
What change have you seen in the food scene in the last years?
EB: Certainly customers have become more adventurous. This is great news as it gives us the possibility to take on new ideas, evolve and challenge ourselves. We try to offer a more dynamic concept that intrigues our customers and makes them feel there’s always something new to try. Today we have got some Asian-style soft shell crab; not exactly like having cod.
What do people love about Randall & Aubin today?
EB: Certainly the atmosphere. You have got this unique feeling of being part of a membership club without feeling too exclusive or sophisticated. This is also to do with the food which is robust, familiar and prepared with great attention to detail.
Tell me about your food
EB: The integrity of our ingredients allows us to give premium products to our clients. Being old-style is what makes us great as we don’t cook using modern systems or fancy machines – knives are all we need. At the end of the day no one gives you a medal for making things easier, but for making them better …