Restaurant Review: Randall & Aubin, Manchester

Randall & Aubin – Soho Shoots Up North

Randall & Aubin Manchester could be positioned precariously. Manchester’s buzzing restaurant scene isn’t known for good seafood. Better known for endless curry houses, well-rooted Chinese restaurants and growing East Asian influences of every flavour. Global brands of all persuasions, loaded burgers, smokey meat feasts, craft beer, real ale and emerging vegan spots call Manchester home. When it comes to classic, French-inspired yet British lead, dare I say it, classy brasseries, there ain’t many.

Randall & Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood Oyster Bar Blog Post
Randall & Aubin Va Va Voom

Does this mean Mancunians don’t have a taste for the seafood not in batter, or will Randall & Aubin shine from a relative lack of competition in their market place? Anyway, when walking up Bridge Street, Randall & Aubin’s smart frontage, loaded with displays of alive looking crustaceans and monsters of the sea, piqued my interest.

Randall & Aubin Manchester is the young cousin of the well-established Soho site, and both venues have a real urbane old-school vibe. The vintage presentation of the menus, branded boxes of white-headed matches and a very solid French wine list gave a certain faded glamour.

Randall and Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood and Oyster Bar Blog Post
Smart Randall & Aubin branding

The oysters were banging, the highlight of Randall & Aubin Manchester. Cold, salty blasts of sea air were launched down, providing memorable bursts of sharp flavour. These little treasures were lubricated by excellent (and on offer) English sparkling wine. Diners choose between French, English, Irish, Rock, Native or a mixture – the helpful server enlightened me on the differences. The English ones, Jersey specifically, where recommended for the uninitiated. The oysters promised even greater things to come, but perhaps the lack of preparation required overstated the promise of the trickier dishes that followed.

Randall & Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood Oysters French Champagne Bar
Stunning Jersey Oysters

Prawn cocktail was the Mrs’ starter, whom immediately upon comparison regretted it. Plenty of good meaty prawns, crisp salad, flavourful sauce, but too much of it, and a faff to eat – what your Grandma knocks up at Christmas. Other starters included a fabulous fish soup, piping hot, featuring a stunning rouille. Despite being the more premium dish, the scallops were not only underwhelmingly small, but gritty.

Randall & Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood Oysters French Champagne Bar
Old School Prawn Cocktail
Randall and Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood and Oyster Bar Blog Post
Wonderfully rich French Seafood Soup (I know it looks like a double espresso)
Randall and Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood and Oyster Bar Blog Post
Nicely presented but small British scallops

Mains at Randall & Aubin Manchester were good but not without fault. A weighty tuna steak was let down by being under-seared and under-seasoned, the only two things required, although was rare as requested. A personal preference, but lukewarm tuna with feta wasn’t a winning combination for me. That said, the vegetables were neatly prepped and the quality of cheese and oregano tapenade was outstanding.

Randall & Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood Oysters French Champagne Bar
Rare Tuna Steak

The Randall & Aubin Lobster Po-Boy was a waste of time. Against my better judgement, I ignored the red flag of “lobster” and “deep fried” in the same sentence but was seduced by having such a premium product at a reasonable £15.50. By the time the lobster had made its way through the batter, brioche and coleslaw it may as well have been prawn, and ironically seemed expensive.

Randall and Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood and Oyster Bar Blog Post
Randall and Aubin Lobster Po Boy

Bouillabaisse – a dish I love – was an entirely terracotta affair, lacking in parley or anything to bring the dish to life, although traditional in presentation. The contents were meaty, fresh, lightly cooked but criminally under-seasoned. Smooth and viscous aoili helped, and crutons added texture.

Randall & Aubin Manchester Restaurant Review Seafood Oysters French Champagne Bar
Randall and Aubin used only British seafood in this French classic

Randall & Aubin Wine Prices

At the time of writing, the cheapest bottle of wine at Randall & Aubin Manchester, excluding half-bottles and service charge, was a Western Cape Cinsault by Boutinot or a 2017 Pays d’Oc Vermentino by Vieilles Vinges both at an approachable £22. Conversely, the most expensive bottle of wine, excluding magnums and service charge, was a 2009 Dom Perignon Champagne at £180. Considering that wine retails for around £140, the mark up isn’t outrageous – perhaps worth keeping in mind if you’re looking for top end stuff.

Randall & Aubin Review Score

Randall & Aubin’s menu is dominated by high-quality seafood from around the British Isles. There’s fancy Orkney scallops, English & Irish oysters, Dorset crab and Peterhead cod. Lobster keeps popping up, but more modest whelks, clams, cockles and shrimp do to. That said, it wasn’t all executed as the polished environment and service suggested.

Atmosphere 9  Cost 7  Quality 7  Service 9

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Other Restaurant Reviews
of Randall & Aubin

  1. Manchester Evening News: “Coriander threatens to topple the balance of flavours, and I envy the simplicity…”
  2. Confidentials: “Other dishes included a really good, if pricey, sea bass fillet (£21.50) helped by the spinach…”

Restaurant Review: L’Escargot Bleu, Edinburgh

L’Escargot Bleu – The Early Bird Catches The Snail

L’Escargot Bleu, a quaint French bistro exuding an understating Parisian chic. But what’s it doing in freezing, pissing down Edinburgh? French restaurants and Scotland have history behind them. In 1295, the ‘Auld Alliance’ brought Scotland and France together through shared interests in controlling England’s aggression. Although primarily forming a military and diplomatic alliance, more importantly for Scots, brought a steady supply of vin francais. I wondered if the seven hundred years of French culinary influence behind L’Escargot Bleu Edinburgh had elevated Scottish eating habits, from deep fried everything with Irn-Bru to haute cuisine and fine wines?

Nestled amongst the stone elegance of Edinburgh’s new town, away from the Playhouse traffic, into the neatly set, dimly lit, late Georgian streets sat L’Escargot Bleu. Behind the proud French navy façade, the interior was tastefully all matt grey, dark wood and flickering candles.

This French romantic vibe just got me in the mood…for something Peruvian. Starting with the Sea Bass Ceviche, arriving oddly hidden under glossy leaves. The dish was vibrant, refreshing – full of citrusy tang. The fish was skilfully sliced, the onions deftly shaved and all and sundry kept their textures determinedly. It was excellent, yet I wanted more. L’Escargot Bleu Edinburgh didn’t match the eponymous ‘Don Ceviche’, by London’s Ceviche restaurants which I’d previously enjoyed; however, they’re Peruvian and double the price. Some well-seasoned, fresh mussels in breadcrumbs were served al la Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Tasty enough but I wasn’t convinced combining mussels with a crunchy coating was a good idea.

Regarding mains, the cod was a hauling beast of pristine white muscle, yet carelessly fell away from my fork’s gentle glance. The aquatic Olympian was gifted texture by a coat of crumbly, salty deliciousness; and, dutifully guarded by purposeful mussels, all lovingly coated in a boldly seasoned, ethereal light sauce. The deep Burgundy coloured Venison Skewers were of a supreme quality: if you’re into murdering majestic mammals this should be why. The deer was fiercely seasoned, sublimely tender, and rested on perfectly formed couscous. The Vegetable Gratin was more impressive than any side had any right to be: it was a miracle of engineering, being so rich in dairy goodness yet enigmatically light. Solid seasoning, punchy garlic and a weighty dose of (I suspect) nutmeg added a magical je ne sais quoi.

L’Escargot Bleu Edinburgh’s cheeseboard wasn’t as compelling as it appeared: fine but unoriginal fromages, tediously uniform biscuits, avec oily, completely unnecessary salad leaves. However, the goat’s cheese was something special – thick, creamy, pungent mouth-filling titillation of the highest order.

With charming staff, quaffable wine, frighteningly good early-bird value and cosy, continental ambience, L’Escargot Bleu is an Edinburgh gem.

L’Escargot Bleu Edinburgh
Review Summary

Atmosphere 9  Cost 10  Quality 8  Service 9

L'Escargot Bleu Review Edinburgh French Restaurant
L’escargot bleu is listed as ‘Best Newcomer of the Year’ in The List Eating & Drinking Guide, features in the Michelin guide each year.
L'Escargot Bleu Review Edinburgh French Restaurant
L’escargot bleu is listed in the ‘Five Best Restaurants in Scotland’ by Pete Irvine.
L'Escargot Bleu Review Edinburgh French Restaurant
L’escargot bleu & l’escargot blanc’s chef patron Fred Berkmiller was a finalist for the ‘Chef of the Year’ title at the CIS Excellence Awards 2016 and has been named a ‘Food Pioneer’ at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards 2016
L'Escargot Bleu Review Edinburgh French Restaurant
L’escargot bleu aims to: “unite the finest French and Scottish produce to provide a dining experience you will not forget”.
L'Escargot Bleu Review Edinburgh French Restaurant
£14.90 Two Course Early Dinner
L'Escargot Bleu Review Edinburgh French Restaurant
“Provenance is key; there is only one rule in [their] kitchen – quality.”

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L’Escargot Bleu Edinburgh

Restaurant Review: Bistro Franc, Liverpool

Bistro Franc – Bargain Basement

Bistro Franc Liverpool was thankfully not authentically French: staff welcomed guests with smiles, rather than complete disdain. The interior was stylishly designed, with absinthe green splashes and natural finishes throughout. Bisto Franc Liverpool tried too hard to mask it’s a chain, with so many modern accessories masquerading as antique; however, they created a fun, unique impression – especially the novel lavatories.

Bistro Franc Liverpool provided outstanding value via Le Pre Théâtre Menu; although the selection was predictably limited, options were perfectly choosable. They also provide generously long Le Lunch Rapide hours, as well as weekly Sunday and Monday (for students) Wine & Dine Menus, giving you no excuses to not make a booking.

The flavours of the pea and pancetta soup worked together admirably: the pleasing saltiness of the meat with the starchiness of the vegetables was comforting. Likewise, the smoked pâté, was creamy but light and slightly citrusy, in other words – delicious. The Chilean Sauvignon Blanc was a major disappointment, being too acidic and tasting of nothing but passion fruit; perfectly drinkable, but with little character. The ‘Poulet Forestier’ was succulent, the thick sauce too sour, and the generously-portioned, perfectly cooked vegetables fresh. Some sort of citrus tart for dessert was tasty, but a little dry, and finally the cheese was inoffensive but not proudly French.

Bistro Franc Liverpool’s service was excellent throughout, with well-presented, spritely servers producing everything efficiently. However, two minor points of improvement would be to proactively advise the Soup of the Day and explain what constituted the cheeseboard.

Although there were some issues with Bistro Franc Liverpool’s food, at this price point one shouldn’t complain. There was also some proper grown up dishes on offer, along with plenty of Scouse banter.

Bistro Franc Liverpool Review Summary

Atmosphere 8/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 5/10    Service 9/10

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