Alexis Gauthier began his culinary career in 1991 at the two-star Michelin restaurant Negresco in Nice, and then at the iconic three-star Michelin Louis XV in Monaco. In 1998 he moved to London as head chef of Roussillon in Pimlico, a restaurant that I used to frequent and back then was pretty much the only good restaurant in that part of town. Roussillon was awarded a Michelin star in 2000 and kept it until 2010, when Alexis opened up Gauthier, spread over three floors in a Soho townhouse. He quickly gained a Michelin star here too, though that was lost in the 2013 guide, for reasons that elude many. Alexis has always been noted for his emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dishes, though at Gauthier you can choose meat and fish dishes too if you prefer. After the pandemic of 2020 the tables now have screens that separate the tables, and the staff wear masks. At lunch there was a choice of tasting menus at £40 for vegetarian or £45 for carnivores. In the evening the vegetarian menu is £60 and the carnivorous version was £75. Running the kitchen today was long time head chef Gerard Vrolle, who has worked with Alexis since Roussilon.
The wine list offered 147 bottles, ranging in price from £35 to £1,200, with a median price of £84 and an average price mark-up of 3.06 times retail, which is hardly a bargain but these days counts as being almost reasonable by central London standards. Sample labels were Hérault Domaines des Moulines Merlot 2018 at £35 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Saumur Domaine des Roches Neuves l'Insolte 2018 at £72 compared to its retail price of 23, and Castagna ‘Adam’s Rib’ 2015 at £97 for a botte that will set you back £28 in a shop. At the posh end of the list, Château Pontet-Canet 2011 was a steep £290 compared to its retail price of £96, and Hermitage Blanc Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2010 was £500 for a bottle that would set you back £245 in a shop. In terms of the distribution of the list, 67% was from France, though there was a decent sprinkling of new world offerings and even a solitary wine from Syria.
The meal began with some canapes. Aubergine caponata (a Sicilian dish of chopped vegetables) was served along with an enjoyable concasse (crushed) tomato tartlet and veloute of apple and celeriac, the latter having pleasant flavour (14/20). Bread has always been made from scratch in the kitchen here, and a rosemary focaccia in particular had very good texture (16/20).
Scallops from the North Sea had good natural sweetness and were carefully cooked, served with sweet corn, crisp capers and sea herbs, with a seafood jus flavoured with coral and paprika. Perhaps an acidic element might have balanced the sweetness of the scallop more than the herbs and bite of paprika, but this was certainly a well-made and enjoyable dish (15/20)
Risotto has long been a signature dish here, made using Acquarello aged carnaroli rice, and topped with late summer truffles from norther Italy. The stock was beautifully incorporated into the rice, and the aged Parmesan and hint of earthy truffle fragrance lifted the dish nicely (17/20). North Atlantic cod came with spiced chickpeas, semi confit tomatoes and a light fish broth. This worked very well, with the spices managing to elevate the flavour of the cod, and the fish broth having quite deep flavour (15/20). Norfolk quail was glazed with soya honey and served with Apicius turnip fondant, kohlrabi, swede, chestnut and a Madeira jus. The sweetness of the chestnuts and the honey glaze was a good contrast to the earthiness of the turnips, and the quail itself was carefully cooked and had good flavour (16/20).
For dessert there was a classic recipe, the croustillant from Louis XV, where Alexis worked many years ago. This chocolate delight is essentially a hazelnut biscuit wrapped in dark chocolate ganache. The actual recipe is complex and has been refined many times over the years. The base is a thin hazelnut dacquoise meringue, topped with feuilletine flakes and praline, covered in a chocolate sabayon and finished with a dark chocolate glaze. The version at Gauthier is not, to be fair, quite in the league of the Louis XV version with its remarkably silky chocolate consistency and mirror like surface, but it is certainly a lovely thing to eat nonetheless (17/20).
The coffee served here is Musetti, a cheap brand of coffee that tastes to me of bitterness and disappointment, so I drank tea instead. Service was very professional, with good topping up of drinks. I didn’t see a bill today, but if you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head today would have been about £70 at lunch, or £95 or so in the evening. This was a most enjoyable meal, with the risotto and the croustillant always a delight to eat. The food here is better than at plenty of starred restaurants in London, and the overall experience is always welcoming and thoroughly enjoyable.