Brian St Pierre's five-star review of Andrew Edmunds, a wine-centred restaurant in a candlelit 18th century townhouse in the hustle and bustle of London's Soho...

 Andrew Edmunds Soho, London

Walking in central London, especially around Covent Garden and Soho, I’m struck not only by the number of new places to eat, but even  more so by the variety: mock-rustic shops offer international comfort food, deli/lunch-counters showcase informal exotica from the fringes of Europe, Cockney fruit-and-veg regulars on Berwick Street are crowded by South American and Asian stallholders and food trucks. Some of the action is achingly trendy or entrepreneurially canny, perhaps hoping to morph into lucrative chains: Russell Norman’s various Polpos, Soupe du Jour, Yoobi (Brazilian sushi), and Mele e Pere Vermouth bar are among those that stand out from the crowd, for different reasons.

It would be easy to be sceptical of all this zeitgeist-churning, but i suspect the target audience (under 30, in fact or spirit) is having great fun with much of it, and why not? It beats a lot of the other arts/crafts/events knocking around which passes for our culture these days. And besides, if and when all this experimentation gets to be too much for some of us more settled folks, there are always refuges such as Andrew Edmunds. 

Andrew Edmunds

A cosy setting for an intimate dinner…

This 18th century townhouse is the old Soho, raffish and insouciant, a reminder of the days when a stroll to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club late at night could be a real adventure and the guy with paint on his shoes was more likely Francis Bacon than Bob the Builder. The story fits: wine aficionado Andrew Edmunds ran an antique print shop (and still does), and when the wine bar next door went bust in 1986, he bought it and turned it into a casual restaurant with a great wine list.

Nothing much has changed since then, except the vintages on offer. It’s cramped, the seats are hard, the noise a din when it’s busy, which is all the time. Service is informal and can be fitful. The food is unfussy and robust: a dozen mussels in garlic-chilli sauce, breast of pigeon salad with toasted hazelnuts and bits of orange, a substantial haunch of pot-roasted rabbit, a large chunk of cod on mashed potatoes garnished with a generous serving of herb-laden clams, at least two game dishes most of the time – nothing dainty, nothing poncey, nothing at all reverential. Just lovely good grub.

Andrew Edmunds

A wine list that reads like a love letter…

Sommelier savvy: Two things show you’re in good hands. One’s a note asking you to turn off your mobile phone, the other is good wine bottles as candlesticks – ours was Shafer Hillside Select. The wide-ranging wine list is intelligent and good value, with a low, fixed-rate mark-up creating bargains galore: Chave, Contino, Terredora and several dozen others are priced at less than £30; Dujac, Weinbach, Flowers, Kistler, Vieux Télégraphe, half a dozen Bordeaux from the 1990s and even more good red Burgundies for less than £100 (sometimes quite a bit less); as well as canny selection from small Australian and New Zealand estates. For people who care about wine, it basically amounts to a love letter.

Andrew Edmunds

46 Lexington St

London W1F 0LP

Tel: +44 (0)20 7437 5708

andrewedmunds.com

 

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