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Gauthier Soho

Monday, 16 August 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

I’ve wanted to eat at Roussillon* for a while now but never really got around to actually getting there. Then I heard that the head chef took off and opened up his own front, named after himself naturally, Gauthier Soho. And then I found out that not only is the tasting menu pretty good but Toptable is doing a buy 1 get 1 free on them – win-win indeed.

Entry to the restaurant is a little mysterious; having to ring a doorbell in the middle of Soho to be granted access for dinner is a new thing for me. Once inside, it is clear that this evening could be potentially awkward as the converted townhouse setting is painfully cramped. We’ve gotten used to the PigPig whipping out her DSLR in most restaurants, but in these conditions it felt a bit uncomfortable as it’s pretty obvious our neighbours were watching us photographing our food. The close quarters and quiet ambience also meant that we ended up whispering to each other for the first part of the meal until some noisier people arrived.

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As we had already booked in for the tasting menu, we were spared the decision making process for food but the manager still showed us the menu in case we wanted to change anything; a rather nice touch which I followed up by swapping my cheese course.

Our canapés soon arrived. The cheese sticks had a quite light crunch and was quite aromatic. I quite liked the cherry tomato filled with tapenade, a natural combination which worked well. Even better though was the foie gras mousse (almost like a foam) on top of a little thin slice of crunchy bread. Promising start.

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In the absence of a wine pairing, I relied upon the sommelier to help us choose a wine; we thought a white would suit the tasting more due to the higher prevalence of seafood courses. He recommended a 2004 Grand Cru Hengst of the Gewurztraminer grape as the wife liked something fruitier and less dry. Turns out he picked quite well as this was a deliciously smooth white that was quite sweet and fruity with a honey flavour.

A good natured waitress then presented us with a wide selection of breads on offer from the basic French mini-baguette to breads stuffed with bacon, chorizo, raisin, olives. We tried the last four I mentioned, all of which were pretty good and still warm.

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Pan Fried Foie Gras, Apricot & Port Reduction”. In no time at all the first course arrives with great anticipation. We found the foie cooked nicely but strangely lacking in taste of both the foie-ness as well as the port reduction. A bit more sweetened glaze would have been preferable. Also I found it a bit odd to start with the foie gras course.

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Scallops & Garlic, Parsley puree”. This course more than made up for the previous one though as the scallops were perfectly cooked as the middle section was still completely raw and there was just a hint of a breaded surface to give a slight crunch. The garlic was just a whiffle in the background while the alternating stripes of parsley puree and bisque jus went exceedingly well with the natural sweetness of the scallops. The girolles were also a great little dance partner for the scallops.

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Summer Truffle Risotto, Jus de Roti & Parmesan Reggiano”. One of those dishes where you can smell it before it arrives to your table, helped in no small part by the sheer abundance of truffles on it. The risotto itself was al dente and really absorbed a lot of flavour from the roast juices the chef recycled. Other than that, it was otherwise a basic risotto that was well executed.

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Wild Sea Trout & Beetroot, Sorrel Jus & Light Ginger”. Some mixed responses from the wife and me on this one. The PigPig thought it was a well composed plate with the fish being cooked right and complimented well by the earthy sweet beetroot sauce as well as the ginger. Myself, I thought the fish a tad overcooked and wasn’t sure if the beetroot was on friendly terms with the fish.

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Crispy & Soft Piglet, Thin Leeks & Cherry Reduction, Pig Jus”. First impression – that carrot had spent too much time in the oven. Our waiter didn’t seem fussed by it though and happily described it as a “red carrot”. A quick nibble didn’t detect any charred tastes and it turned out to be actually quite sweet. The pork meanwhile was indeed crispy and soft and went quite well with the cherry sauce which was a nice change from the usual apple sauce.

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Trio of peach, blueberry and raspberry sorbets. Now I had mentioned earlier I opted out of the cheese courses, replaced instead by these sorbets made in-house. They were all pretty good albeit creamier than the usual sorbets and perhaps a little bit too sweet.

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A selection of French Matured Cheeses”. The PigPig asked for a small selection and was given four types. Suffice to say she liked most of what she got.

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Soft Cherry & Dark Chocolate, Cherry & Red Wine Jelly, Cherry jam & Champagne Granite”. At this point we had a brief respite and the manager came out to tell us that this course was delayed as chef wasn’t happy with his first attempt at the fondant. Fair enough, at least he came out to tell us so. I didn’t particularly enjoy this course as I don’t like cooked cherries, but I did wish there was more than the little dollop of chocolate fondant provided as the little sample we had was really good and full of cocoa flavour.

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Golden Louis XV, Dark Chocolate & Pralin”. Here, Alexis Gauthier reveals his training by Alain Ducasse. Despite our excellent meal at ADAD, we didn’t get to sample his famous dessert as it wasn’t on the menu so I was extremely pleased to try Gauthier’s version of it here. It seemed to be a layer of chocolate ganache over some pralines and then enclosed in a coat of dark chocolate with a little gold leaf in on top. The manager did say that Gauthier altered Ducasse’s recipe slightly and I don’t know how the original is like, but I absolutely loved what I had that night. Decadently smooth creamy rich chocolate goodness.

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Coffee & Petit Fours”. To wrap things up I had a cup of filtered black coffee to sip while enjoying the petit fours. The options were a coconut marshmallow, white chocolate and pistachio mix, lime macaron and raspberry tart, none particularly amazing (but how can any other macaron match up to Pierre Hermes’?).

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Service throughout the night was friendly and warm and the staff all seemed to have good teamwork. After two glasses of wine I decided I had enough and let the PigPig finish off the rest of the bottle so I declined a pouring by the manager. Later when the sommelier came to top up the wife’s wine glass I made a move to signal I didn’t want any more but he said he had already been told that by his colleague. That being said, there was only one other waiter and it was pretty much him and the manager handing out the steady stream of plates from the kitchen so sometimes the glasses did end up waiting a bit before the refill.

Altogether the bill came up to £70 each. We had a tasting menu each which was on a 2-for-1 offer while our bottle of wine was about £50. Theoretically, we could have been really skint and just had our food with water and paid just £68 excluding service charge. A nice touch was the gift of a take-home snack for the PigPig to enjoy (marshmallow).

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Food – 8.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 4.0
Value – 6.5

While the food was technically well executed and (by and large) delicious, it does seem a tad formulaic in its aim for Michelin starring. On that visit I was pleased with the food and would definitely be keen to return again for more, but I do wonder if I’ll be able to distinguish this from other similarly coated restaurants in 5-10 years time.

Best bit: the scallops were excellent and the Louis XV chocolate outstanding.
Worst bit: enduring an entire night of complaints from the PigPig that I ate her raisin bread. She then asked for another from the waitress only to get an olive bread and on her third try there wasn’t any left.

Gauthier Soho
21 Romilly Street
Tel:+44(020) 7494 3111
Official website

Gauthier Soho on Urbanspoon

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