If you are a loud person Gauthier is not the restaurant for you. Everyone whispers their conversations as the atmosphere at this swanky Soho restaurant is so hushed and reverent. I had dinner there with my friend Lucy and we spent the whole evening carefully lowering our voices because that seemed to be what all our fellow diners and even the waiters were also doing. The solemnity of the dining experience at Gauthier is only accentuated by the setting of the restaurant which is a converted Georgian town house. The town house still feels very much like a house with a door bell that you have to ring to get in and diners eating in a variety of tiny and blandly decorated rooms. The setting is more reminiscent of a library than a lively Soho restaurant.
The dull downstairs dining room at Gauthier
Despite the dull setting and atmosphere, the food at Gauthier is excellent. It’s easy to see how it won a Michelin star in its first year of opening. There is a degustation menu (£68) if you want to push the boat out but choosing the three courses for £35, four courses for £45 or five courses for £55 still ensures a surfeit of food thanks to the various freebies that are offered at each stage of the meal.
Jerusalem artichoke veloute
The sheer quantity of theses added extras almost overshadow the meal itself. To start there is a complimentary amuse bouche of dainty devilled quails egg and a tiny tart of incredibly rich foie gras. There is also an overflowing bread basket with a whole variety of choices from chorizo to olive bread. Then there is an added extra course of a single ravioli served in a frothy bright green foam, not to mention the pre dessert of finely diced, slow roasted pineapple and of course the petit fours to finish off the meal which include a tiny lemon tart and rich chocolate and tea scented truffle. In my book though the best freebie of all is the fact that still or sparkling water is is also complimentary. When you are paying for an expensive restaurant it is nice for it not to try and gouge you for your water drinking at the same time as well.
Perhaps because there are so many extra dishes, the serving sizes at Gauthier are fairly small. Alexis Gauthier favours a classical French style of cooking which features complex techniques and flavours. Veloute of jerusalem artichoke was smooth and creamy while scallops with cauliflower and broccoli were clean tasting and refreshing. A pearly piece of monkfish loin was described as being “cooked in a pot”, and so was served at the table from the pot and drizzled with wild mushrooms, crispy pancetta and a light broth made from chicken stock. The monkfish offered satisfying meaty mouthfuls despite the serving size being small.
The desserts on offer were truly exquisite with a delicate millfeiulle featuring layers of crispy pastry and golden caramel sauce. The signature dish of the restaurant is the Golden Louis XV, named after the hotel Alexis Gauthier worked at in Paris and a tribute to the chef there, Alain Ducasse. The dessert is an impossibly shiny and smooth chocolate tart filled with chocolate mousse and meringue and adorned with gold leaf. The varied textures and rich flavour makes it an instant classic.
Service was oh so very French and then waiting staff came complete with French accents and gallic good looks. It almost bordered on being over attentive at times but I would rather that than be ignored. The predominantly French wine list is a treatise in itself including poetry (an “Ode to wine”) and musings on the sommelier’s childhood and even the topic of mildew. That said, the sommelier was excellent and picked a perfect crisp white wine to accompany our meal, the 2009 Roussette de Savoie Frangy, Domaine Bruno Lupin (£35) which is from the region of Savoie in the French Alps.
Louis XV dessert
The disparity behind the perfectly executed food and wine and the strange setting at Gauthier was further highlighted by a visit to the toilets which don’t look like they have been renovated since some time in the 1970’s. They feature bizarre photos of men in sailor outfits on the walls and grubby blue trimmed hand towels. For a restaurant with such fine attention to detail the shabby loo seemed completley incongorous. The restaurant is ripe for a starring role in one of those renovation rescue shows on TV to try to inject a little bit of liveliness and ambience to the Gauthier experience.
Details: Gauthier, 21 Romilly Street London W1D 5AF (Ph 020 7494 3111) Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Damage: Budget Breaking but Lucy very kindly treated me as a belated birthday present (Thanks Lucy!).