This week includes a new high class pizzeria

Saturday, August 25th , 2012

la-vie 3648 chef Thomas Buhner-crop-v2.jpg

It was not that long ago that the standard of pizzas in London was actually raised by the entry of the Pizza Express chain (before that you mainly had Pizza Hut and the grim cardboard-like concoctions of the Deep Pan Pizza Company). Fortunately times have moved on, and there are now some authentic and high quality Italian pizzas available in London, with Franco Manca in Brixton market starting the trend, to their eternal credit. They now have stiff competition in the form of another Naples pizzeria Santa Maria in Ealing, and its baby sister, Sacro Cuore, which opened just over a week ago. Just as at Santa Maria, the pizzas here follow all the precepts of the Neapolitan Pizza Association, who produce a detailed set of rules as to how an authentic Naples style pizza should be prepared. The pizzas we tried were excellent, and what is more the price that they charge here (also true of Franco Manca) is actually less than you pay in most of the high street chains whose product are not even a fraction as good. Sure, this is not fine dining, but we can’t eat that sort of food every night, so it is great to see another high quality pizzeria come to London.

Garnier is the new venture of the former head chef at Racine, tucked away on the busy Earls Court Road rather than in smarter (but costlier) Knightsbridge. However the same perennially popular French bistro formula is being used, with a quite large menu of classic dishes on offer. The cooking was a little inconsistent, the main weakness being in the pastry and bread, but otherwise the dishes were nicely cooked and quite enjoyable. Service was charming, which will help customers over the relatively high food prices, though to be fair the wine list has many real bargains. Just weeks after opening, the restaurant was already turning away walk-ins, and so doubtless as it settles down this will continue to prosper.

Gauthier is in the Soho town house that was once The Lindsay House; these days Alexis Gauthier, formerly head chef of the now sadly defunct Roussillon, applies his classical French training in the kitchen. At this meal we were seated at a table in the wine cellar and tried the full tasting menu. As usual, the meal was very capable, with an excellent warm foie gras dish particularly enjoyable. I like the fact that they make the bread here, and the wide selection of rolls features some very good bread indeed. The menu had appealing dishes with none of the showiness that afflicts some younger London chefs: no one here is putting edible flowers on the plate with tweezers to make it look good on food blog photos, and there are no taste shocks to show how modern the chef is – no sea buckthorn foam will assault the palate at Gauthier. Instead they just cook nice things well.

I am also pleased to add a new chef interview to the web site, this time three Michelin star chef Thomas Buhner (pictured) of La Vie, where I had a high class meal some weeks ago.