In the not too distant future, my friend and I are hopefully moving into Manchester city centre.
The prospect excites me greatly as I have often fantasised about being a man about town ever since that man in the cash card ad was easy like a Sunday morning. A long time has passed, so long in fact that cash cards were still called cash cards and were urbane and sexy. Still, on the sunny half of a late Friday in August, my friend and I mobiked (new verb) down to Randall & Aubin on Bridge Street to indulge a part of my fantasy as Halifax man which is long, lazy lunches in sophisticated surroundings, sipping chilled white wine as the oysters slip down.
We had a brief visit to Doherty Evans & Stott to view their tie sale. In my fantasy, I buy all my ties from there, and in reality I do, though not as many as my imaginary self would like. Next door is Randall & Aubin, an Anglo-French seafood brasserie new to Manchester and the only Northern outpost of the famous Brewer Street establishment (opened in 1993). It has an impressive frontage, open windowed and full of iced fruits de mer. It’s as inviting as any Marseille poissonerie.
The interior is equally impressive. A sumptuous palette of white tiles and soft leather booths, smitten by the reflected light of a slightly incongruous glitter ball, gives it a lively, youthful atmosphere. But the music was perhaps a little too much, as a couple behind me asked to be moved from the intrusive proximity of an overbearing loud speaker. More easy like a Sunday morning and less midnight at the oasis would do. Mind you, this is from a curmudgeonly Opera Correspondent.
Our menus were brought to us by Manon, who remained helpful, knowledgeable and friendly all afternoon. Randall & Aubin pride themselves on their seafood so we stuck to the surf side of things. We began with a platter of six French rocks. With a spoonful of shallot vinegar and a splash of Tabasco, they slipped down a treat with a true taste of the sea. We also shared a small plate of crab cakes, equally sea-doggy and delicious, and I was particularly taken with the sliced baguette served on the side. Crisp on the outside and holey within. I asked Manon where they sourced their bread and Lovingly Artisan of Chorlton came the answer. We discussed the difficulty of getting a decent baguette in England that didn’t taste of cotton wool. I suspect that Brexiteers are Mother’s Pride kind of people, so the situation doesn’t look set improve.
Our mains of chargrilled Cornish squid and half a roasted lobster in garlic butter arrived with perfect pommes frites. Succulent, sweet and tender as the night, Randall & Aubin certainly know their seafood. My friend is not much of an imbiber, so she stayed with her single Prosecco while I slugged on a glass of Muscadet followed by a fine and fruity Portuguese Fontanario de Pegoes. I’m drinking for two after all.
A light dessert of a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream and a rather lush crème brulee with a delightful Carlo de Pelligrino vin de dessert for me brought a wonderful lunch to an end.
As we stepped out into a rainy Manchester afternoon, I took comfort in my urban fantasy that soon I would be a flâneur of these environs knowing that Randall & Aubin will be on my circuit as I wander the streets humming ‘easy like a Sunday morning’.