Andrew Edmunds is far from being a new restaurant; it has been in Soho since 1987, but I have somehow managed to avoid reviewing it in all that time. It was set up by the eponymous Mr Edmunds; he owned the antique print gallery next door, and when the wine bar that he used to lunch at went into administration, he bought it. The reason the restaurant has such longevity is its wine list, or more particularly the pricing of its wine list, to which I will return shortly.
The premises itself were unassuming, on the ground and basement floors of a Soho premises, with wooden floors, cream walls and green upholstery. The bench seating and chairs were, well, snug, at least if you are an estate agent. Tiny and cramped, if you are not. Nor were the benches comfortable. The menu was simple, British and cheap, with starters were mostly around a fiver, main courses £10.50 - £16 (and that for wild sea bass), desserts £4 - £5.75.
The wine list had mark-ups that by London standards were very fair indeed, and indeed by pretty much any restaurant standards were generous. Examples were Penley Estate Phoenix 2006 at £18.50 for a wine that will set you back £12 in the shops, D’Arenberg Dead Arm 1998 was £90 for a wine that costs at least £40 in the shops, and Vega Sicilia Unico 1998 at £220 compared to a retail price of around £175. The lovely Rieussec 1983 was £39.50 for a half bottle, compared to a retail price of around £30, if only you could find it. These are mark-ups at a level that are so patently kind that they will draw in wine-lovers, and indeed the restaurant was packed on this Tuesday night, turning tables multiple times.
A starter of langoustines with lemon mayonnaise (£9.50) was a simple trio of quite large langoustines, correctly cooked, with a slightly thick mayonnaise that could have done with more lemon (13/20). I also sampled some dressed crab (with brown crab meat), a simple salad and, the best of the starters, goose rillettes with red onion compote and cornichons on toast, the latter having good flavour despite a lack of seasoning.
My rabbit leg was braised and served on the bone with grain mustard and pancetta, offered with pleasant mash and cavalo nero. The rabbit appeared to be wild and had good gamey flavour (13/20). The only technical problem was with an overcooked slab of tuna with puttanesca (spicy tomato and olive) rice and saffron mayonnaise; the rice was correctly cooked and the sauce was fine, but the grey tuna was not good (maybe 11/20). Beetroot and ricotta triangoli pasta with baby spinach, clarified butter and basil was decent (12/20).
The desserts raised the level of the meal; my white chocolate and pistachio cheesecake was genuinely good, having lovely texture and a good base (14/20). This was not a fluke, a simple plum sorbet having unusual intensity and smooth texture (15/20). I found the service, which some seem to dislike, to be fine, though they are clearly not overstaffed here; taking bookings only a week ahead may inconvenience some. The bill, with some pretty serious wines, came to £80 a head, but it would be easy to eat here for £40 a head. This is quite a bargain in central London, and I can see why so many diners put up with the uncomfortable seats and cramped conditions. This is a clear example of how to make a restaurant that attracts droves of diners: serve simple, appealing dishes at a fair price, and don’t rip people off on the wine. If only more London restaurants followed this lead.