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

Find Randall & Aubin Manchester

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: Dishoom, Manchester

Dishoom Manchester – A Blast of Bombay

Dishoom Manchester replicated a real sense of Mumbai’s (formerly Bombay) culinary traditions, with it’s brunch ’till evening, informal menu. Furthermore, Dishoom communicated a taste of the city’s historic culture built by the generally fast-paced, hard-working and welcoming people. Restrained British touches such as the East India Gimlet, sat comfortably with the more exotic incense burning on arrival. Mercifully, the restaurant hadn’t imported Mumbai’s death trap toilets, as Dishoom’s were spotless. Since 1949 Mumbai citizens legally require a personal permit to “require foreign liquor and country liquor for preservation and maintenance of my health.” Fortunately, Dishoom Manchester had adopted a more lax British attitude to alcohol consumption.

Dishoom Manchester Restaurant Review Indian Bombay Mumbai Blog Post
Novel menu design at Dishoom

The colonial-inspired Dishoom dining room paid homage to the typically Indian focus on the family. I don’t know if Manchester’s Indian community have much of an opinion either way of the – shall we say  controversial – role the British Empire played in Indian history. Regardless, Dishoom seemed to take pride in this element of Mumbai’s heritage. The main part of the restaurant was the ‘Family Room’ a great many genuine portraits of the owner’s extended ancestors watched over guests with quiet approval. Unlike 90% of Manchester’s Indian restaurants, Dishoom refreshingly employees not only white people but wait for it, women too. Regardless, our young male Mancunian server of Indian heritage was excellent, proving  to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and prompt.

Shortly after the tipples were served, a few vibrant freshly made dips were provided before the food steam-rolled through. The Keema Pau was incredible, a memorable dish, defying expectations. It looked like two ordinary looking buns next to dish of mud. Doesn’t sound appetising, but this description betrayed the buttery, spicy, just delicious impact that followed. The Chilli Chicken was ideally spiced, tender as expected, but the batter wasn’t for me. Too reminiscent of a takeaway…a Chinese takeaway. Having had my mind blown by the Keema Pau I was expecting fireworks from the Chilli Cheese Toast. It was simply that, chilli and cheese on toast. All fine, but something I’d sooner make at home in my pyjamas than bother putting pants on and leaving the house for. Don’t get me wrong, I still wolfed it down.

Dishoom Manchester Restaurant Review Bombay Indian Irani Cafe Curry
Amazing Keema pau at Dishoom Manchester
Dishoom Manchester Restaurant Review Bombay Indian Irani Cafe Curry
Chilli Chicken – bit too takeaway like
Dishoom Manchester Restaurant Review Bombay Indian Irani Cafe Curry
Comforting Chilli Cheese Toast

Dishoom prides itself on their Biryani, and I saw why. Perfectly formed soft rice hid generous pieces of silky lamb. It was a dish that felt humble and comforting, yet luxurious at the same time. Only free-range lamb is sourced, and it shows. I rarely eat lamb, let alone twice in one meal, but it was seemingly something of a Dishoom speciality. Considering the cost of meat and food in general has rocketed, I thought it reasonably priced. That’s not to say Dishoom Manchester was a restaurant only good at slow-cooking stuff. Dishoom’s lightly cooked Basa Fillets were gently marinated with yogurt, careful charred, and delicately spice. The fish was pleasingly fresh and sustainable sourced; although, would have been better served before rather than after the heavier dishes.

Dishoom Manchester Restaurant Review Bombay Indian Irani Cafe Curry
Lamb Biryani, a Dishoom speciality
Dishoom Manchester Restaurant Review Bombay Indian Irani Cafe Curry
Marinaded Basa

Peppermint Tea was required and enjoyed, but this was upstaged by my best Chai Latte to date, something I’d strongly suggest to enjoy. The young server spoke with pride of the Chai mixture was brewed every morning. I asked him for the recipe, but I lost track after the fifteenth ingredient he reeled of. On another occasion, I’ll try the epic sounding Viceroy Old Fashioned, with bourbon, bay leaf and green tea.

Dishoom Manchester Wine Prices

An Indian restaurant is usually the last place I’d go for a glass of wine, but Dishoom Manchester had a surprisingly good bar, even if the wine glasses were naff. Decent enough red and white wines were promptly served, and did a good job of standing up to the different flavours that laid ahead. At the time of writing, the cheapest bottle of wine at Dishoom Manchester, excluding service charge, was a 2017 French Merlot/Grenache blend by Roc d’Opale at £23.50. Conversely, the most expensive bottle of wine, excluding service charge, was a Non Vintage Gosset Grande Reserve Champagne at £95.

Dishoom Restaurant Review Score

Manchester has lots of curry options; but for me, Dishoom is one of the better ones due to its focused menu, welcoming atmosphere, smart interior and authentic dishes.

Atmosphere 10  Cost 8  Quality 8  Service 10

Find Dishoom Manchester

Other Restaurant Reviews
of Dishoom Manchester

Manchester Evening News: “It’s the sort of deeply nourishing comfort food they should prescribe on the NHS.”
Eat and Two Veg: “…this isn’t just another cookie clutter ‘industrial chic’ room with exposed brickwork and minimal lighting.”

Restaurant Review: Federal Cafe & Bar NQ, Manchester

Banging Brunch At Federal Cafe & Bar NQ

Federal Cafe & Bar NQ’s been smashing avocados and the Trip Advisor rankings since 2104, so I was long overdue a visit. This trendy brunch spots also featured in The Manchester Cookbook: Second Helpings and The North & North Wales Indie Coffee Guide for services to hungover people.

I liked the clarity of the Federal Cafe & Bar menu, with food and drink offerings that were small but perfectly formed. Although the business owners are English and Portuguese, Federal Cafe & Bar is Australian / Kiwi in ethos. What that boils down to is friendly service, excellent coffee and lots of protein – what’s not to like?

There’s an element of hipster influence that comes with the territory of Instagram ready Flat Whites. Cutlery and condiments were housed in army mess tins and tap water’ served in recycled milk glasses; but, it all adds to the laid-back atmosphere and feels at home in Manchester’s quirky Northern Quarter

For all my love for food and drink in all shapes and sizes, the boom in hipster coffee culture has largely passed me by. If it’s hot, smooth, robust and wakes me up, I’m happy. I’m not arsed if it’s Guatemalan or Ethiopian, or whatever the exact ratios of espresso to foam are. That said, the coffee at Federal Cafe & Bar is excellent, supplied by New Zealand based O Zone Coffee. Unlike myself, if the phrase ‘Single Origin Coffee’ means anything at all, you’ll love Federal Cafe & Bar. I enjoyed a perfect Flat White, but Oat Milk Turmeric Lattes, Dirty Chai Lattes and a V60 from the Brew Bar (whatever that is) will be cheerfully served if requested.

Then there’s the issue of eggs. Oh my. The eggs are eggsellent  outstanding. Bright and fluffy white exteriors with glowing yellow runny interiors. However you prefer them dressed up, they’re the perfect food stuff to set you up for the day, or to recover from the night before. Federal Cafe & Bar gets theirs from The Lakes Free Range Egg Company, who evidently know how to raise chickens well.

Thinking about it, it was all bloody good. The freshly baked Sourdough bread was light, nicely chewy yet soft, with a clear crust. The Halloumi was properly crispy, with a delicious squeaky middle. The Turkish Eggs provided punchy chilli butter, matched with impacting garlic yoghurt. Eggs Benedict – the Mrs’ go-to option, delivered almost buttery yet muscular smoked salmon with a well-balanced rich Hollandaise sauce. Emily’s Banana Bread…I thought they’d come unstuck here…nope, it was soft, comforting with the ideal level of sweetness.

Federal Cafe NQ Manchester Review Breakfast Brunch
Halloumi & Shrooms
Federal Cafe NQ Manchester Review Breakfast Brunch
Turkish Eggs
Federal Cafe NQ Manchester Review Breakfast Brunch
Eggs Benedict

Federal Cafe & Bar NQ Wine Prices

Yes, Federal Cafe & Bar NQ served wine (and other alcoholic beverages)! There’s just one white (Trebbiano) and one red (Tempranillo) both at £18.50 for a 500ml carafe or a bottle of Prosecco at £25. The two wines are ‘natural’, meaning “nothing at all [is] added or taken away at any point”, sourced by the eco-friendly supplier Vinnaturo.

Federal Cafe & Bar Review Score

It’s no secret the product is bang on. Federal Cafe & Bar is small and busy, so you’re far from guaranteed a table at peak times. That said, the ever welcoming staff don’t mess about, service is prompt and tables turn around quick. It’s a shame the few outside tables only look out onto an ugly, busy road but there’s very little else to fault.

Atmosphere 9  Cost 8  Quality 10  Service 8

Find Federal Cafe & Bar
NQ Manchester

Other Restaurant Reviews of
Federal Cafe & Bar NQ

  • Creative Tourist: “…both décor and menu find a balance between NQ hipster and ordinary punter”.
  • Eat Out Moore: “The Menu is just what you want – an array of mouth-watering dishes on offer and a very clear format…”.