It’s been a while since I’ve written a restaurant review and that’s not because I haven’t eaten out. I have. And my waist band would attest to that! But it’s been a really busy summer filled with music festivals, friend’s visiting from around the world and weekends away. Blogging hasn’t been on the top of my list of things to do. But the weather has turned cooler, our calendars have started to free up a bit more and then of course there’s the minor detail of it being my birthday recently. We’ve had lots of great meals out, but it was the last birthday in my thirties, so it had to be special (Any excuse!). It wasn’t that easy finding somewhere that The Better Half (TBH) and I hadn’t been to before, but then I remembered arranging a dinner for a couple of the Directors that I work with which they raved about: Gauthier Soho
Alexis Gauthier set up his self-named restaurant in the heart of Soho after leaving the highly acclaimed Roussillion in 2010. I’ve seen him on Masterchef and I’ve taken to reading the blog on his restaurant website (which is a great and insightful read by the way) and he just seems like an all-round nice guy. His menu is also the only one I have ever seen that has the calorie count on it! Arriving at a pretty unassuming black door, pressing the buzzer and being let into what feels like somebody’s home, we were led up the stairs and seated in the dining room on the second floor.
I had already decided that we would be having the tasting menu. I think it’s great that you are able to choose 4 or 5 courses from different sections of the a la carte menu to create your own version of a tasting menu too. I didn’t even bother looking though because the tasting menu just rang all my bells! TBH had deemed it necessary to do the wine pairing as well, so 1 glass of champers + 8 courses + 8 glasses of wine = a very merry birthday girl and some very vague descriptions of what we ate to follow…. but what I will say is that the menu tasted even better than it read! Every single course was a winner.
Course 1 of 8 was Scottish Blue lobster fondant and crunchy cauliflower, lobster ravioli, grapefruit lemon balm and coral jus. Perfectly cooked, buttery lobster, the coral jus adding a flavour of the sea and seasoning the dish just right and the grapefruit and lemon balm bringing a nice acidity to the dish. A great start.
Course 2: Poached hen’s egg, soft smoked eel, baby gem lettuce and butter croutons, rosemary and smoked eel broth. This dish surprised both of us. We liked the smokiness of the eel more than we expected. The baby gem and butter croutons adding a different texture to the soft egg and fish. Two courses down and both extremely enjoyable.
Course 3: Summer black truffle risotto, Acquarello Riso, aged parmeson Reggiano, jus de roti. This was my absolute favourite dish and I could’ve easily eaten another plate full. I don’t normally like truffle because I find that it can overpower a dish. Even though it looks like a lot is on the plate, it was well balanced. The risotto was creamy and rich and utterly more’ish.
Course 4: Wild North Atlantic halibut, early season salsify, girolles and enoki salad, dashi fish velouté. This was The Better Half’s best dish of the evening, which sent me into total shock! He doesn’t like fish at all and at home, I usually only cook it when he’s not there! So hat’s off to the chef! Halibut is one of my favourite varieties and I really enjoyed the Asian spin on flavours.
Course 5: Highland venison loin, celeriac and truffle purée, caramelized pumpkin and poached pear with venison jus. A masterclass in how to treat venison (or any red meat in my opinion). A nice seal around the outside, but perfectly pink in the middle. Normally I don’t like celeriac or anything vaguely tasting of celery, but I mopped up the purée hungrily. We had a little giggle because a friend of ours did something similar on another occasion…. “I don’t like aubergine” and then when the dish came, gobbled it all up. It’s taught us a lesson – never say you don’t like something without trying it first.
Course 6: Soft Brie de Meaux, poached pear jelly and gingerbread. This was such an interesting dish. A really unusual, but great combination of flavours that just worked.
Course 7: Apple and quince, light crumble and calvados cream, apple cider reduction. The crumble was more like a gooey biscuit and the filling nice and tart. A great contrast in flavours and a dessert I really enjoyed because it wasn’t overly sweet.
Course 8: Golden Louis XV, 70% dark chocolate mousse, crunchy praline. Just look at that sheen on the chocolate. Rich and decadent, it’s everything a chocolate dessert should be. I can see why it’s the chef’s signature. The birthday message was a lovely touch too.
Wine pairing starting from right to left. The picture is as blurry as we felt by that point. I am definitely not a wine expert and TBH even less so – he actually never drinks wine. What we do know is that if a wine is perfectly matched, it will enhance the flavour of the food and it did just that. Pierrick, the sommelier that evening, explained every pairing to us without being condescending. I think he may have even converted TBH into a wine lover!
Alexis wrote a really great post on his blog about his 10 rules for running a restaurant and it is really evident in the service that we received. Friendly, charming, accommodating, like one of the family. Service was exceptional in every single way. I can see why my Directors at work loved it.
I don’t have the final bill, TBH wouldn’t let me see it as it was my birthday. But the 8 course tasting menu and wine pairing is £135 per person. Gauthier and everything about it is special and I would encourage you to visit. Thank you chef and all the team who made it a truly memorable birthday!
Until we eat again!