Step forward Soho's Randall and Aubin, who chose to bring their brand of premium, brasserie-style dining up north by opening their second restaurant down on Bridge Street. Can they become the go-to diner for our city's seafood lovers?
It certainly appears the part from outside, the restaurant front looks ridiculously inviting at the best of times, but seemed to have that extra bit of sparkle on an especially chilly winter evening last week. Dapper decor gives the place a casual but suave feel once indoors too and the aromas coming from the open kitchen are reassuringly drool-worthy.
Fresh bread always helps on that front of course, and we began with a basket of the stuff, their own Marmite and cheese creation took my fancy in particular, if you're that way inclined take a plunge.
I should point out that there are turf options too, not just surf, but we stayed in the sea throughout our meal. First up we took the Tuna Carpaccio, five rare seared slices of the meaty fleshed fish with an Asian style salad. I though it was more of a tataki if you're going to get technical, those chunks were much too thick to call it carpaccio, but naming aside it was excellently executed. The fresh slaw-like vegetables tossed together with sesame seeds and soy proved the ideal bite and bluster to delicate raw fish.
The first dish to demonstrate the direction of Randall and Aubin came next. It makes sense to exercise restraint with quality ingredients, but especially where seafood's involved. Six Manx queenie scallops certainly appreciated the light touch, grilled and joined by just crisp pancetta and a caper, lemon and garlic butter. Absolute bliss on a plate, ornate but uncomplicated, delicate, yet packed with the briny slap of capers and bacon against acidic lemon juice.
Halibut is undoubtedly a fish with the flavour to deserve some respect, and a light cassoulet of butterbeans, sugar snaps and chorizo pieces offered the fillet centre stage. Tantalisingly flaky and perfectly pan fried with a tint of caramelisation, this is the sort of food you couldn't really ever tire of. Quality paired with simplicity, if money was no object I'd probably be in here most nights of the week.
Especially since there's plenty of dirty stuff on offer too. Aside from the fish and chips or deep fried lobster po' boy, you could choose tender, scored Cornish Squid that crackles with pure char grilled ash and smoke. A simple chilli sauce, dressed rocket and fries on the side complete a plate that puts most calamari to shame, quite frankly.
For afters the pleasantly light Tart au Citron's punchy, sharp lemon tang was a welcome burst of a dessert. Sweet spiced mango and ice cream sweetened things together with the crisp buttery pastry base. Occupying an altogether more imposing frame, a sticky cube of dark date pudding was perhaps more befitting of the season. That sponge soaked up the generous slug of caramel sauce obligingly with its rich, sugary stone-fruit.
If you you're a seafood fan you've probably just found your new best friend, and if not there's always their burger- which, judging by the standard everything else, must be something pretty special.
Randall & Aubin
64 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BN
0161 711 1007