The death was announced this week of Andrew Edmunds, whose self-named Lexington Street restaurant has been a favourite Soho destination for 37 years for people in the arts and the wine trade – and, famously, for those with romance in mind.
Andrew pursued twin careers – each with singular success – as a restaurateur and also as a dealer in historical prints, the two businesses in adjoining premises with the Academy Club refuge for literary types upstairs. So while many associated him with “old Soho” and the area’s post-War Bohemia, his connection with London’s art world went back much further, to the 18th-century world of Hogarth, Gillray and Rowlandson.
In each case, his work seemed very much a labour of love, and Andrew was a visible presence until very recently, a hands-on proprietor in his late 70s – ensuring each table had fresh flowers and joining his many friends in a glass of wine.
Among those with fond memories are Harden’s co-founder Peter Harden, who first visited the restaurant in 1988 when “Andrew Edmunds was already a hip spot for Soho media types to gather – and my first date with my now wife was there in 1991!
“The restaurant has always been a top 3 spot in the Harden’s survey for romance, and my last visit was in 2019, when it was the winner of Top for Romance at our London Restaurant Awards. Andrew invited us back after the ceremony to celebrate. We drank champagne in the Academy Club upstairs and I was shown behind the scenes to Andrew’s office in his print dealers below, where he kept all the finest vintages amidst the very fine prints. Dickens could have written about just such a scene, and the views at the back were vintage old Soho.”
Hugh Bett, a director of antiquarian booksellers Maggs Bros, knew Andrew in both his professional capacities and offered the following tribute:
“If you have ever eaten at Andrew Edmunds or his club upstairs The Academy, apart from the excellent food and remarkable wine list, you might have noticed the carefully chosen flowers – Andrew’s personal input – and the overall lack of interest in modish interior decoration. He ran the restaurant on the basis that if the cooking was good, the menu and prices appealing, with a wine list that offered exceptional quality and value (cheapest Pol Roger in London), there could be no other outcome than success.
“Andrew was a connoisseur/collector/dealer in C18th and C19th caricatures, and can without hyperbole be described as the world expert in this field. His shop was a wonderful if somewhat gloomy cave full of printed delights, not necessarily for sale.”