DINING OWL AWARDS: 3rd – best value; 5th – bread; 5th – amuse bouche; 5th – pre-dessert
When I visited: A few times from 2012-2016
Location: London, Soho
Team: Alexis Gauthier (Chef Patron), Gerard Virolle (Executive Head Chef), Pierre Dumoulin (Restaurant Manager), Claudiu Moldovan (Head Waiter), Romain Perroches (Head Sommelier)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Recommended (used to have 1 star)
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Intimate, like someone’s house
Course of the meal: Golden Louis XV
If I could change one thing: More consistent service
When I first visited this restaurant a few years ago, I loved it. It was friendly, intimate and great value at lunchtime. I went again in 2015 and as much as the food was still excellent, the service left a lot to be desired. They seemed confused when we asked about vegetarian options, unamused when one of us changed his mind and said he DID want a glass of champagne to start with and confused enough to mess up our bill at the end and not be able to explain it to us.
However, I visited again in summer 2016 and thankfully this restaurant was back up to its golden standard of gorgeous food and informal, friendly service. If it continues on this trajectory, it should surely regain the Michelin star it used to have when I first visited (as should Alexis Gauthier’s other London offering of Tartufo), if there’s any justice!.
July 2015 lunch
We had 3 courses with 2 glasses of wine for £33 each. I must say that the wine pairings (chosen by the sommelier to go with your starter and main) were particularly good.
We started with a glass each of Gerard Loriod Tradition Brut champagne, which was wonderfully dry and tasty. We were given a set of three beautiful canapés to accompany this aperifif: a cheese biscuit with red tomato jelly on top, watermelon jelly with herbs on top, and a small squidge of gorgeously soft salmon. We also got Parmesan crisps, and a wonderful bread selection offered to us throughout the starter and main courses, including soda bread, focaccia with either rosemary or black olives, French baguette, or Parmesan and caramelised red onion.
The great value of the set lunch was emphasised by the amount of ‘bonus’ (unwritten) courses you get, continuing with the amuse bouche – marinated prawn with cucumber and avocado (in the standard quenelle shape) and a citrus topping.
For starters, some of us chose artichoke veloute with black olive tortellini, which was paired beautifully with a glass of white Bodegones del sur Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (bright yellow and mineraly in taste). The others went for rabbit cooked two ways with gooseberry compote and grapes, paired with a glass of Gaillac Chateau Clement Termes 2014 (very light in colour, refreshing and crisp).
One of our mains was Dover sole with green beans and tomato, paired with a glass of red Languedoc (Gamay grape) Chateau La Clotte Fontaine 2013, which was amazingly soft – I would like to buy this wine generally (one think I should say about this restaurant is that you can buy the wines from there separately and they continue to be good value). The other main chosen was lamb with peas, broad beans and jus and fondant potatoes, paired with a glass of red Gaillac Domaines D’Escausses 2013 – darker and fruity.
The bonuses continued with a pre-dessert – strawberries and granita (very summery and refreshing). For desserts, we went for the ‘Very Dark Chocolate’ 70% with gold leaf, dots and yoghurt sorbet (very like the Golden Louis XV, described below) and the cheese selection (one soft, one blue, one hard) with crackers (3 types – light, medium and dark) presented inside a silver goblet, with grapes.
We rounded off the meal in traditional fashion with a tea – jasmine pearls – and in one case a coffee (Americano), with petits fours: a dark chocolate ganache inside a rapper, a coconut mini cake topped with dark chocolate, and a white marshmallow.
July 2016 lunch
This time we went for the deluxe lunch for £40, which illustrated why this restaurant has one of my awards for value. We each started with a glass of grower Champagne from Deutz, and enjoyed two glasses of paired wines each (white and then red) with our choices from the set menu.
The bread selection was as good as ever – focaccia and olive, Parmesan brioche and sourdough. The canapés were also consistently tasty – Parmesan crisps, cucumber cylinders filled with goats cheese, blinis with poppy seeds and apricot and fennel blinis. Hot on their heels came the seasonal, watermelon-themed amuse bouche – watermelon spheres stuffed with feta cheese and watermelon soup, which was wonderfully light.
There was no main course dip here – the named courses were all of a consistently high standard. I started with sea bass tartare with salad and grapefruit while my friends had rabbit with pasta and broth, then we moved on to miso cod, pork belly and green ravioli with peas for our mains. The pre-dessert was a quenelle of apricot ice cream and peach crumble and then we all obviously went for the Golden Louis XV for dessert – the classic chocolate dessert with gold leaf which is one of the standout dishes in this restaurant and never disappoints.
We finished off with green teas and coffees with petits fours: lemon macarons, chocolate ganache truffles and aniseed financiers.
I was really glad that this visit showed that Gauthier Soho has regained its usual high standard of service. There were still some minor mistakes (serving our table the wrong cutlery and petits fours) but these weren’t at all serious and didn’t detract from the experience, so I have reinstated this restaurant’s 4-hoot rating.