During one of our recent stays at Club Quarters’ Trafalgar Square location, we were looking for a convenient spot to dine after a matinée concert and cheeky visit to Fortnum and Mason. Having been unable to get through the door of the fêted Covent Garden restaurant Clos Maggiore, we had made a reservation at Gauthier Soho, which is conveniently located a short walk from the hotel.
The uniqueness of the restaurant is apparent even before you’ve stepped through the door: dressed up as a glamorous London residence, it has a shiny black front door not unlike that of Number 10 Downing Street, and you have to ring the doorbell in order to gain entry, which all adds to the sense of occasion that is at times lost these days when dining out. This is nicely combined with a warm yet professional welcome from the overwhelmingly French staff, who continued this demeanour throughout the night’s service.
There are several options in terms of dining at Gauthier (à la carte; 3 courses, 4 courses, 5 courses; 7-course tasting menu…), but these are all presented in a clear manner both orally and in writing. This is made even more impressive thanks to the excellent (albeit expensive) wine list that complements it. As well as a range of bottles to suit every taste, wine by the glass is also available – we enjoyed a wonderful Barbera, which is a slightly carbonated red wine due to the unique maceration process involved in making it. It combines fresh fruity flavours with ashy, mineralised ones, which suited our hearty main course well (more of which later). We also had a glass each of Sauternes and Jurançon with our desserts, which balanced botrytis and freshness pleasingly.
Gauthier’s seven-course, £70 tasting menu appears tempting and of good value, but even three courses (which we opted for at £40 a head) still makes for a plentiful feast. The restaurant’s use of seasonal ingredients and its formal French finish arguably makes it a more affordable “Manoir-lite” which makes you feel like you’ve had a quality meal with plenty of wow-factor while not making the meal the centre of your day. To begin, there were canapés, consisting firstly of delicate cheese straws, and secondly of colourful tomato jelly on mini bruschette, offering appropriate contrasts in texture, and an idea of the quality of flavour to come. But before our starter there was also an amuse-bouche, in the form of a truffle and mushroom raviolo on squash purée. Suffice it to say that this was worthy of a whole bowlful by itself, heightening the anticipation of your meal even further.
One side of the table had chosen an apple and pancetta salad, which was served with appropriately autumnal vegetables (celeriac and marrow), as well as an aged vinegar dressing. The other side of the table took soup to new heights thanks to the head chef”s chestnut and pheasant concoction. While the aniseed infusion perhaps could have had a more intense flavour, the pink liver that it came with was a perfect complement, and the crispy onion rings and leaves added great textural adventure. In terms of the main course, the wild duck served two ways proved tempting, but ultimately two plates of the Highland venison were ordered, to no regret. Served with pears poached in red wine, caramelised pumpkin, and truffle and celeriac purée, the tannic flavours intermingled playfully with the sweetness of the pear, pumpkin and celeriac, and were given added depth by the earthiness of the truffle. As for the venison itself, it came cooked to perfection (even though I had forgotten what “à point” was in English when asked how I would like my meat cooked), thus leaving us sorry that it was gone once we had cleaned our plates (it is a testament to the portion sizes and the lightness of the food that we did not feel as stuffed as a Christmas turkey).
The dessert menu offered a host of temptations to celebrate the festive season indulgently. While the dark chocolate mousse with crunchy praline was a serious contender, as were the refreshing-sounding blackberry, rose and pineapple sorbets, in the end one meal was completed with the restaurant’s “mandarine givrée”: a frozen mandarin orange that has been hollowed out and then refilled with the mandarin segments, before being served with extra segments, edible flowers, orange jelly, and a chocolate orange stick. While the shortbread in the description was conspicuous by its absence, and the tarragon could have made itself more obvious, the flavours, textures and temperatures combined to make a refreshing, low-fat, festive and original finish to the meal. On the other side of the table was another delight: a pear millefeuille served with cider ice cream, which again proved fruity, refreshing, contrasting and original.
To end our meal, disappointing coffee was served with far superior petits fours: a cherry marshmallow, a chocolate financier, and even a mini mince pie (whose wafer-thin pastry, full flavours and highly diminutive size all proved notable). This epitomised the beautiful harmonisation of French and English traditions that Gauthier Soho is producing in its kitchen – and is just one of several reasons why we would go back (regardless of the circa £150 bill for two).
21 Romilly Street, London W1D 5AF
Telephone: 020 7494 3111