Gauthier in Soho has it all. A great location, great service and a pretty decent reputation so far, one has to look hard for anyone who has not enjoyed their time here. A few weeks back, we went to have a go ourselves as it seems to be an interesting place. After all, the chef Alexandre Gauthier worked at the Louis XV for a certain time, and the menu read fantastically. Upon entering you notice how beautiful the room and decoration are. Clearly, a lot of money and care has been put into making it into one of the more beautiful rooms around. It looks as though one tries to aim very high, and in terms of the décor one can hardly say that they don’t get what they want. It’s a nice room.
Service was top notch too. We were greeted quite friendly, and were well looked after throughout the whole evening. Roberto della Pietra, the great sommelier seemed to function as maitre (at least in the upper room), and did his job with great charm. We were looking forward to the food!
However, not everything is perfect here. The wine list, which lists a few decent bottles, has hardly anything of interest in the range of £50-100. In addition, most of the interesting wines are far more expensive than say at the Square or Ledbury, so we decided not to buy anything off the list. Instead, we bought a bottle of our own, which proved to be submitted to a corkage fee of £25.
Now, to the food. The menu read gloriously! There was pretty much everything that makes autumn great, and the dishes looked very Chapel- or Ducasse-like. So far so good. Price-wise it was rather fair too: 5 courses were charged at no more than £55, which is pretty competitive. Furthermore, you are able to pick from 5 different parts and compose a menu of your choice. That is a refreshing concept, and dare I say it sounded great. We chose and off it went.
First up came a little set of amuses, all of which were very tasty, and seemed to look quite promising. Things looked good.
My first course was Gauthier’s signature risotto with chicken jus and truffles. This was much better than I would have imagined. The truffle was there, if not quite as pungent as a black or white truffle would have been, the risotto seemed to be cooked properly and didn’t lack flavour. Very good.
Next up came a dish consisting of quail and eel with autumn vegetables. It read beautifully, but when it arrived, one had trouble finding the quail, which was perfectly cooked and tasty, but hidden underneath the collection of vegetables. The combination might not have been the best, but that was not the problem. Rather, it seemed more like a vegetable salad, which lacked seasoning and was totally overpowered by an acidic vinaigrette. Thus, the whole dish was disjointed and lacked coherence. Pity, as the eel was of fine quality and the quail more than tasty. Mediocre.
Next came a plate of roast scallops with sauce Choron and Swiss chard. The scallops were fine. More than fine, well-timed and well-seasoned they were hard to argue with. Unfortunately there was one major problem with the dish: The saue Choron was again too acidic. So much so, that even the tiniest amount of it ruined the flavour of all the other elements on the plate. What the red onions added to the dish was a question I did not find an answer too, but they definitely did not do much. Sadly, this course was a letdown too.
The final savoury course was a breast of wild duck with dolce-forte sauce, salsify and figs. Great products, and great combination I thought, especially since I had a superb duck with the same sauce at the Louis XV last year. Well, when the plate came, it was lukewarm at best. The duck was cold, and therefore a bit tough. The sauce was more dolce than forte or anything else, and masked everything in its sweetness. Were it not for the stunning bottle of Sine Qua Non that accompanied us throughout the evening, we would have been a little disappointed by now. Mediocre.
Funnily enough, dessert turned out to be on the same level as the risotto: It was a slightly more elaborated apple mille-feuille, which was perfect. Fresh, indulgent and light at the same time, it provided a number of contrasting textures and flavours, making it quite an excellent dessert.
The Louis XV here was not quite on the level of the one in Monaco. Too big and somehow cloying and heavy, it was far from the light, delicate sweet end to a meal that the original gives.
So, what do you make of such a meal? Well, as I mentioned earlier, the sommelier was more than welcoming and nice, so I sent him an e-mail with a few of the issues I had with our meal. He directly forwarded it to the chef, but so far (it must have been 3 weeks ago) I have not heard back from him. I had no intention whatsoever to write about it, as it might just have been an off-day, but restaurants that do not even acknowledge criticism are hardly serious. What do you make of it, when you don’t get a reply after letting a restaurant know how you liked your experience (positive or negative)?