Alexis Gauthier, long-time executive chef at (now defunct) Roussillon, has struck out on his own, taking over the Soho town-house premises that used to be The Lindsay House. It is an unusual and slightly tricky space for the staff, with a series of small dining room areas over multiple floors, now with a grey carpet, white walls and beige upholstery. The tasting menu was priced at £70, but from the a la carte menu you could choose three courses for a very fair £27, four courses at £36 and five courses at £45 (lunch is £25 for three courses). I found the menu appealing, with generally pleasing ingredient combinations. Alexis has brought with him several staff from Roussillon, including his old head chef Gerard Vrolle and the restaurant manager.
The mainly French and Italian wine list stretches over 41 pages and contains choices such as Mas de Daumas Gassac red (2007 at £59 compared to a retail price or £18, with the older 1996 at a chunky £125 compared to a retail price of about £27), Albert Mann Pinot Gris 2008 at £43 for a wine you can buy for around £13, and the entry level Lake Chalice 2008 Pinot Noir at £34 for a wine that costs a tenner in the shops.
A nice hangover from Roussillon is that they actually make their own bread. A wide selection of rolls is offered, with bacon bread, black olive rolls, cumin bread, chorizo, walnut, and tasty Parmesan and garlic rolls as well as a simple baguette. It is so nice to see someone making the effort to bake their own bread in London (17/20). As you look at the menu you can snack on pigeon rilette, delicate chickpea beignet with basil vinegar dip and crudités of carrot and radish, the latter from Secretts Farm in Kent and carefully chosen (16/20 nibbles).
Tonight I tried the tasting menu. There was no Alexis in the kitchen, but Gerard Vrolle, his longtime right hand man, was in charge. Pan-fried duck foie gras was nicely cooked, serve with caramelised apricot, ginger marmalade and a quite intense port reduction; a bit more acidity would not have gone amiss here (15/20). Scallops were nicely cooked, served with girolle mushrooms, parsley reduction and a dressing made from the scallop coral (15/20). Summer ceps risotto was rich and well made, the rice having good texture (16/20).
Sea bass and baby squid was cooked well, but served with a courgette tempura with rather soggy batter (14/20). Piglet belly had good flavour, served with glazed baby carrot, leek fondant with cherry jam and a sauce of the pork cooking juices (16/20). The meal finished with “Louis XV”, the dark chocolate and praline croustillant made famous at Louis XV in Monaco, where Alexis Gauthier worked as a pastry chef many years ago, of which I have written before.. Overall, a very enjoyable evening.
Here are some brief notes from a lunch in 2011.
Risotto has always been a strength of Alexis’s cooking. Today the kitchen used veal stock rather than traditional chicken stock, which adds a stronger flavour, and in this case worked nicely with the taste of the morel mushrooms in the risotto. Because the rice is partly pre-cooked (to facilitate service) this is never going to be quite as good as the best examples of risotto you can get in top restaurants in Italy, since the pre-cooking affects the texture of the rice, but by London standards this is still very good indeed (17/20).
Angus beef with black olives was good quality and nicely cooked, served with braised carrots and cardoons, tasty bone marrow potatoes and rich beef jus (15/20). For dessert I could not resist the Louis XV, a version of the famous croustillant dish of the Louis XV in Monaco that Alexis used to make when he was working theer as a pastry chef. It has been described as a friend of mine as a "posh Kit Kat”, but Kit Kats never tasted like this (18/20).
Further reviews: 01st May 2009