Gauthier is in a Soho townhouse stretching over three floors, previously the site of The Lindsay House. Alexis Gauthier trained at Negresco in Nice and then the famous Louis XV, and was head chef at the late lamented Roussillon in Pimlico from 1998, which had a Michelin star up to 2010. He moved from there to open Gauthier in Soho and was awarded a Michelin star for this venue in 2011, though this was lost in 2013. As well as the a la carte menu with three courses at £50, there was an eight course tasting menu at £75. At lunch only there was also a five course tasting menu at just £45, a bargain given that it included scallops, wild turbot and a glass of champagne thrown in. There is a complete vegetarian menu here, which in 2015 became fully vegan.
The lengthy wine list had labels such as Finca Quara Malbec 2014 at £45 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Chateau Musar 2006 at £78 compared to its retail price of £25, and Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2014 was £115 for a wine that will set you back £43 in a shop. Higher up the list the markups became extremely erratic. For example the rare Domaine Clos Rougeard Les Bourg 2009 was a relative bargain at £331 for a wine that is almost unobtainable but can (just) be found at the time of writing in a shop for £407. On the other hand Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 year 2007 was an absurd £522 for a wine that retails at £105. In the middle were bottles like Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2005 at £630 compared to its current market value of £288. One particularly nice selection was the Thierry Germain Saumur Insolite Chenin Blanc 2015, at £65 compared to its retail price of £23.
Our meal began with some nibbles: watermelon, red beans with chickpea hummus, guacamole with crispy radish, Parmesan crisps and herb ricotta crisps. The best of these by some margin were the delicate Parmesan crisps, though the others were merely pleasant (average 14/20). Bread was made from scratch and included sourdough, white bread, onion brioche and Parmesan brioche. The brioche and sourdough in particular had very good texture (16/20).
Cauliflower “curd” with raw cauliflower and also pickled cauliflower was topped with Tasmanian black truffles. This was an interesting way of exploring the humble cauliflower, the truffles adding an element of luxury (15/20). Poached hen’s egg came with potato rosti, sautéed girolle mushrooms and chicken jus, with parsley puree. This was very pleasant, the rosti having good texture (15/20).
Scottish scallops came with sautéed squid, chorizo, marrow, Kalamata olives and a shellfish veloute made using lobster shells, as well as a squid ink tuile. The scallops, from Orkney, were delivered live to the restaurant and were of very good quality, and the veloute was impressive, having deep shellfish flavour (16/20).
Australian black truffle risotto used the top quality Acquerello rice. This is pretty much the king of carnaroli rice, grown on a 140-hectare farm in Piedmont and aged for up to seven years or more. The risotto also used aged Parmesan Reggiano, Mascarpone cheese and chicken stock. This was lovely risotto, having gorgeous texture (17/20).
Wild sea bass with sautéed girolles and gai lan came with a dashi-infused fish veloute. This was a classy dish, the sea bass from a large 4-5 kg specimen and precisely cooked, the vegetables going well with the fish and the veloute having deep flavour (comfortably 17/20).
Pigeon from Anjou was cooked rare and served with confit pigeon leg. The pigeon breast was roasted on the bone, finished in the oven and then rested before serving with Kent cherries, fondant kohlrabi, Sicilian pistachios, onion, fried cavolo nero leaf and pigeon jus. Pigeon cooked this rare can sometimes be chewy but not here, and the acidity of the cherries worked well with the rich meat. The fried cavolo nero leaf was a clever touch, adding an extra texture as well as a welcome vegetable contrast to the pigeon (16/20).
There was Coulommier cheese with fondant celery, cherry tomato and aged balsamic reduction, the cheese in good condition. We were able to sample several desserts between us. Summer berries included strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries in a strawberry shortbread, topped with a strawberry sorbet. This was a relatively simple but refreshing and enjoyable dessert (15/20).
Blackberry vacherin meringue came with lime zest and blackberry sorbet. I was particularly taken by the quality of the fruit and the delicacy of the meringue, which was made from chickpea water (16/20). Raspberry and chocolate tart had crispy cocoa and pistachio oatmeal, fresh raspberries and a raspberry sorbet. The fruit was again of good quality, the texture of the sorbet lovely (16/20).
The “Golden Louis XV” is based on a famous dessert at Louis XV in Monaco, and has a crunchy praline base with dark, almost liquid chocolate mousse. This is a tricky dish to score as it is not quite the same as the Louis XV version, which has itself evolved significantly over the years. However it is certainly a rich and enjoyable dessert (17/20). Coffee, rather disappointingly, was Musetti, a fairly cheap commercial blend that seemed out of character with the effort that had gone into many of the other aspects of the meal.
Service was excellent, the waiters friendly and attentive. Our bill came to £72 a head, but if you ordered a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost might be around £80 per person. This was an impressive meal, dishes such as the risotto and sea bass being genuinely classy. This was clearly food in a higher league than plenty of places that currently get a Michelin star in London. It is appealing food made with real technical skill, served in a very civilised dining room: cooking for grown-ups.