Entering Gauthier Soho is quite charming in its own way: press the doorbell, wait to be admitted and enter the narrow hallway of this lovely Soho townhouse. With the rain now beginning to fall though, standing and waiting on the doorstep has lost some of its appeal but the wait is mercifully short and on stepping inside, we're formally welcomed to Gauthier. Being a townhouse, there's not a singular dining room but rather dining rooms darting off the main passages and stairs and today, ours is located on the upstairs level.
The interior has met with some criticism in both the professional and blogging world. There's clearly been a lot of attention towards the look (every table has one and only one chair with a red cushion to offset the beige(!) upholstery) while walls are unoffensively white with little adornment. Overall though, while there's little to interest or challenge you, it's comfortable enough. The toilet decor meanwhile provide a strange contrast with (in the male toilets at least) pictures of well ripped naked male torsos, bathed in golden auras. There must be story behind this but I don't know what and not sure that I want to. It is though a curious contradiction with the understatement elsewhere.
Indeed, throughout the meal itself there are contradictions and clashes that result in something of a disjointed experience, a reflection of Gauthier's standing perhaps - a restaurant in waiting for (and expecting of) its first Michelin star. Most likely, they're aiming for two in due course.
It is presumably the prospect of a star that allows them to confidently offer a tasting menu and here, to their credit, it represents very good value at £68 for eight courses including a cheese course for which so many places so readily attach a £10+ surcharge. Against the backdrop of this value, the service remains incredibly formal throughout, almost as if they're trying too hard to represent the star they don't yet have. It feels like as a restaurant that they haven't found their own voice yet and so have invoked the upstairs-downstairs habits of the townhouse as it would have been back in the days of Queen Vic. In short, it has no funk and no feeling of the contemporary.
On top of that, there were just some outright curiosities. A number of the dishes came to the table complete with cloches though they stopped short of a simultaneous ceremonial lifting at the table itself. In some sense, fair enough, the kitchen is in the basement and they're worried about the food retaining warmth. So why then do they choose to serve the paired wine once the food has been placed on the table? Cloches are off, the food's on the table now getting colder and the sommelier only then approaches the table with the wine. A quick description follows and he goes around the table pouring each of us a glass before we eat; everybody seems to feel uncomfortable by this as the food sits there growing stale. It's totally the wrong way round but was the pattern on each and every course so clearly done with intent. It's simply an odd choice.
The first course, probably the next best dish following the risotto, was a foie gras dish served with pasta, a Parmesan veloute and Chervil jus. It made for a nice start to the meal and a nice change from the usual foie gras 'slab on a plate'. On a rainy January day, it offered warm comforting flavours that nicely eased us into the meal. The next course though of 'half tempura Shetland's langoustines' with marinated tofu, crispy ginger and langoustine and basil dressing was more underwhelming with the ginger dominating the flavour and the tofu feeling somewhat out of place. The langoustine tails themselves also had no real impact in the dish.
Finishing up, we greatly enjoyed the petits fours which I'd rate as good and probably better than the actual desserts themselves.
We understand the commercial imperative to get the Michelin star but Gauthier Soho needs to find depth of soul rather than a text book approach or they risk being only an also ran.
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