If I’d tried to write this article even a few years ago, it just wouldn’t have worked. Back then one only had #TBT: “Throwback Thursday.” Today (or tomorrow or yesterday), however, I am excused week in, week out. Reading on a Wednesday afternoon? That’s Way-Back-Wednesday for you. Has Friday found you thumbing through this issue? Well, Flashback-Friday has me covered. While no one wants stale, years-old content, there is something to be said for revisiting a forgotten favourite. Consider it a rebirth. It might even be what some call ‘vintage’. And if we’re going to go back, we might as well go way, way back.
Brought into the world in London’s seedy underbelly in 1986, Andrew Edmunds has outstripped its millennial counterparts. In a world of pop-ups just beginning to bop, it is not simply finding its footing. One of the last bastions of Old Soho, Andrew Edmunds is quietly, truly thriving. In a sea of soft marble, brushed metal accents and chairs so expensive they look like they could have come from Ikea, Andrew Edmunds paddles around all by its lonesome. The anti-minimalist, it is so definitively uncool that it’s actually pretty fucking cool.
Buried behind the crowd hurling elbows in desperate attempt to shovel a certain steam bun down their maws, this neighborhood stalwart sits unassumingly. There is no sign. You’ll find no Michelin Guide stickers. There is little more than a warm, sweet glow to summon you inside. If you manage to secure a little divine intervention and either of the two tiny tables outside is unoccupied, snag one. You’ll be in prime position for dinner and a show if you’re dining late, as drunken revellers blindly crawl their way through the streets hoping to enter The Box – or somebody’s, anyway.
The interior is almost a caricature of itself: cramped, buzzing and chaotic. Spindly tables dot the room, threatening to give way at the entrance of each heaving dish. Rickety chairs flank the tables, facing off against pews so hard you’ll surely repent any and all sins from the night before. If those feeding at the trough opposite you prove to be abhorrent bores, fear not. You’ll be able to catch all the gossip from neighbours on either side. And even spear a shrimp from beneath their lemon sole.
If you tend to sweat like a sinner in church, do your best to needle the hostess into seating you on the ground floor, as the intimate nature of the basement makes for poor air flow. Otherwise, bring your fan or reconcile yourself to the steam bath you may not have bargained for. Whether you’re squirrelled away downstairs or gulping fresh air above, you’re guaranteed an evening riddled with nostalgia for a time of which you quite likely have no memory. Namely, perhaps, the 18th century.
Though perhaps initially the red-headed stepchild, the restaurant has grown into a sort of Siamese twin of Edmunds’ eponymous print shop next door. They complement one another; they cannot be separated. The same higgledy-piggledy charm that rules the restaurant also blankets the prints shop, which bursts at the seams with astonishing antique pornography and scathing political cartoons. Ogle your newly-purchased print as you aim a forkful of black pudding with apples into your mouth, and you won’t mind dining alone.
The menu changes often, but meanders happily between comforting mainstays, just ever-so-slightly gussied up. Though few items may surprise you, most are sure to delight. Expect hearty meat dishes simply but beautifully prepared and fish so fresh it’s mostly left to its own devices. Starters more playfully toe the line between fanciful experimentation and bistro classics. Even if your fancy remains resolutely un-tickled by the dressed crab or tender coins of lamb, the harem of wine ensures that all will depart, if not necessarily contented, then at the very least unquestionably sloshed.
The selection at Andrew Edmunds is the manic pixie dream girl of wine lists. It’s quirky, a little inconsistent, but generous and impossible to resist. Like any good MPDG, this one can be a bit overwhelming, leaving things feeling a bit lost in translation. Flash the waitress a sheepish smile, and she’ll gently nudge and prod you until you know exactly what you want. And make you think it was your idea all along.
Sometimes, you do not want to gather ye rosebuds while ye may, seizing every opportunity to try new things. Sometimes, all you really want is something reassuring, something familiar. Andrew Edmunds is for just such moments. It won’t surprise you; it won’t upend your world. It will, however, become the place you turn to when you don’t know what you want, but want to want for nothing.
Monday–Saturday 12:00–3:30pm, 5:30–10:45pm
Sunday 1:00–4:00pm, 6:00–10:30pm