Randall and Aubin is on the small strip of Fulham Road known as the beach; so called, I’m informed by Ed the ogler, because in the summer the street is lined with scantily clad young things, basking in the sun outside the row of cafes. Oh well, I’ll take his word for it, but only a man would be able to sit on the fume infested Fulham Road lit only by the sunshine yellow frontage of Europe Food Stores, and think they were on the Cote d’Azur. Some people aren’t as well travelled as they’d like the rest of us to think.
Inside the restaurant looks like an upmarket Wimpey; broad slithery leather clad booths (slightly raised from floor level so that you think all the waiters are midgets until you stand up to leave and discover – lo! they tower above you), which you may have to share if you are the sort of sad Fulhamite who travels in pairs rather than packs and don’t pitch up with eight of your closest friends. The clientele is very mixed, so you can get a group of short men in Crombie coats, weaselling around with mobile phones cuddling up to and a group of past-it pensioners, still wearing their scarves and hats whilst slurping oysters, but there are an awful lot of identikit Fulham blondes. There’s loud ambient techno music to which, worrying, one of the oldies, a Clive James ‘grandad’ lookalike, started to do repetitive knee bends (oh bless, said Ed, he’s had his hips done) and a good approximation of that club move where you try to open a very high window with both hands. There’s also a fractal video screen on which I kept waiting for karaoke to appear, to no avail; and a couple of red cubes with fairy lights encased within that look like the illuminated innards of some weird, nasty creature you wouldn’t want to find in your bed at night, but which I was told by the waiter was their ‘Christmas tree’. So now you know.
The place is owned by Jamie Poulton and TV chef Ed Baines, who have another branch in Soho, and are also responsible for The Ifield in Chelsea, and he menu is one of those all day Brasserie jobs, designed for people with more money than inclination to cook, who keep cigars and nail polish in their walk-in fridge and nip round the corner for seared scallops when they want to eat. You can have fish and chips; linguini with basil, pesto and crispy potatoes (both £9.50) or liver and bacon with mash for £15.50; with a few more interesting dishes like the soup du jour – on our visit cabbage and truffle soup (interesting in the same way that boils are, no doubt) or chicken Spago with more truffled cabbage and Parmentier potatoes (£14.75). Starters are all at stand-alone prices under a tenner, and I would guess that practically everything comes with rocket.
We had several refills of anaemic, aerated ciabata whose quality suggested it could have come from the Europa opposite, spread with lashings of butter, melting in the blessedly effective central heating, which took care of both starters and the £1.50 per head cover charge. Next up, imagining I was indeed the kind of gal with a whole spectrum of le vernis de Chanel instead of family size gallons of milk in my fridge, I had a whole grilled lobster and a side order of delectable courgette batons with mayonnaise. Mr Ed had fish cakes; the genuine article and just like good home made with lots of chunky fish rather than padded out with mashed potato, and fried to perfection, served with an odd salad topped with a few butter beans. Both came with sensitive little string fries of the sort that wilt at the first sign of heat. Mine succumbed readily to the ocean of garlic butter spilling out of the lobster shells and the dish was accompanied by more implements than a surgeon’s tray – you almost expect someone to wipe your mouth and pass the claw crackers; and without the production of a finger bowl, maybe someone to lick your fingers.
Loads of people loitered around the door waiting for free tables but there was absolutely pressure for us to vacate ours. Relaxed, we idled over a treacle tart with no discernable flavour of anything beyond sweet sludge, served with a dollop of clotted cream, so small that it could have sat on a teaspoon and invited six of its friends to join it without having to squeeze up. Ed, meanwhile, gyrated on his seat to the pulsing bass like a man with St Vitus’ Dance. ‘I feel like I should have had an E before I came in here,’ he said dreamily. ‘We should go on to a club next.’ Great idea – but only if you promise to knock me unconscious with it first.
1 cover charge £3.00
1 whole grilled lobster £21.50
1 classic fishcakes £9.75
1 zucchini frites £3.75
1 treacle tart £4.75
1 diet coke £1.25
1 bottle of water £3.50
1 bottle montepulciano £28.00
£12.5 service £9.44