‘As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.’
It’s not like we have many seafood restaurants in the city centre to choose from. Not even one, believe it or not.
In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway describes beautifully the theatrical indulgence of really enjoying an oyster, of properly tasting one of the finer things in life. Oysters are something Anglo-French brasserie Randall & Aubin know a thing or two about, having served up some of the finest premium seafood to Londoners for over twenty years.
Co-founders renowned chef Ed Baines and businessman Jamie Poulton have chosen Manchester for their first foray outside the smoke. About time, too. It’s not like we have many seafood restaurants in the city centre to choose from. Not even one, believe it or not.
But what made them choose Manchester?
“We knew immediately when we first came here together a couple of years ago it was the right place,” says Jamie.
“As soon as we got off the train there was a vibe, an energy very similar to Soho when we first opened there. Plus the warmth of the city, the people are so welcoming and engaging.”
“Not knowing the city we spent a while finding the right site,” says Ed. “We wanted to be part of where things were moving, but also somewhere with a strong sense of community which is why we chose Bridge Street. It’s right on the edge of Spinningfields and a great mix of old and new.”
The site has been sumptuously decked out. It’s very French art deco, glazed tiles, leather booths, fabulous chandeliers, brass and mahogany. It’s also fun. Sit at the marble breakfast bar on arrival and watch the theatrical open kitchen as you press your own buzzer summoning more champagne and caviar. Or store your own favourite tipple in The Cage which regulars will love.
There’s also a respectful nod to Manchester, with playfully named seating areas dividing the 140 cover space – the Library, Bridge, and Hacienda bar. And although the menu has been tweaked slightly to allow for regional tastes, the food remains the same – simple and classic, where the product and the way it’s handled are the key.
“There’s no hiding with food like this,” says Ed. “The product arrives alive, direct from the coast – Cornwall, Devon, Scotland, Jersey, France, Holland. We simply source the best out there and treat it properly. Whatever we do we do it well.”
And that’s exactly what we found when we attended the soft launch this weekend. The oysters are a must-try with a choice of French, Irish, or English. We opted for the latter (£14 for 6). Sweeter and smaller, these perfect Jersey rocks prove conclusively that size isn’t everything.
Get some really chilled white wine that’s a perfect match for seafood like the Picpoul de Pinet Roquemoliere (£33.50 bottle) and ask for their recommendations as we did. Remember everything comes in live the same morning, so it’s well worth asking what they think is looking the best choice that day.
We were told the mussels so we went for their Classic Moules Marinieres (£10.85). They were superb, with the best marinieres sauce I’ve tasted, which I spooned up like soup once the juicy plump mussels were all gone.
We also ate Tuna Carpaccio (£11.50) and Crispy Lemon Sole (£17.50). Both were exemplary.
The meat is pretty damn fine too. Most of it cooked on the rotisserie which means succulence times ten. Our Half Classic Corn Fed Chicken (£10) marinated in garlic and parsley was outstanding, with the sexiest and silkiest jus.
After a brief respite, we ended on a similarly classic note with the Flambee Crème Brulee (£8), a creamy pot of vanilla custard heaven.
The moules marinieres, in particular, perfectly demonstrate what this place is all about. Simply the best product cooked brilliantly and made very sexy. It’s the type of place you’ll meet friends for lunch and find you’ll still be there at five o’clock.
‘The world is your oyster’, as the saying goes. We think Randall & Aubin might just be Manchester’s. And Manchester might just be theirs.
Randall & Aubin opens on Wednesday 31 May 2017.