More Regency townhouse than restaurant, Gauthier’s swish exterior – shiny black door, sash windows and gold signage – doesn’t intend to intimidate; brave the doorbell and you’ll be greeted by a small team of polite, affable waiters who help make this dining experience one of the most relaxed in Soho.
It’s been open since 2010 and, perhaps surprisingly for a French restaurant, has always offered a ‘vegetable tasting’ menu that reads just as well as its carnivorous counterpart: saffron egg with fondant beetroot, rolled cep mushroom cannelloni, and butternut squash cream with sage tempura are just three of eight courses on the autumnal menu, for £65 per head.
The dining room, complete with elaborate fireplace, has half-a-dozen or so tables and as such the atmosphere is hushed (more romantic dinner for two than party of five). It’s a white-linen tablecloth kind of place, but with quirky additions including graffiti squash decorations on the tables and a Moulin Rouge-style bathroom upstairs – you have to strain to see beyond all that reddish light.
Start your meal with wine – the list here is extensive and our white Priorat Close Martina was light and aromatic, with powerful pear-drop and rose notes. Wine pairing is available for the tasting menu, as is ‘tea-pairing’ – a different brew for every other dish. Gauthier’s sommeliers don’t pretend to know as much about tea as they do wine, but each blend is prettily presented in its own oriental teapot and, though it was a bit odd to drink something so hot with food, the flavours were a good match.
Dishes here are beautifully constructed and minimalist in size. Eight courses is manageable and our favourite on the night was the French take on ‘dippy eggs’: yolky eggs served with creamed beetroot, pristinely sliced buttered toast soldiers, crunchy pink shallots and sweet, nutty raw mushrooms (our number one ingredient of the evening). In a different dish, heirloom rainbow carrots were vanilla-pickled and presented in swirls of colour; and an innovative pre-dessert of creamed, savoury pumpkin with shockingly cold yogurt sorbet was a welcome surprise.
Unfortunately, the brown butter, parmesan and truffle risotto was too rich and fungal for us (thick truffle shavings seal the dish like clarified butter would a pâté) and the fresh Charolais cheese with date chutney and figs disappointed a little – we were expecting sensational fromage from a French restaurant. But the finishing dish, a dark chocolate mousse with crunchy praline, was as velvety as it was beautiful, and the whole experience was certainly worth the money.
If you’re a vegetarian due a posh meal out in central London, then you couldn’t get much better than Gauthier. It’s smart, professional and the chef knows how to make vegetables sing – just try to ignore the calorie counts at the foot of each dish!
Written by Charlotte Morgan, December 2015
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