I have no photos of the inside of this beautiful restaurant, nor any images of the fabulous food. I basically came over all shy, as I always do, about snapping away in more formal surroundings. I feel like the experience should be savoured and that other diners are not there to listen to the clicking of your smartphone or intermitent flashes of light at every course. So you’ll have to make do with a picture of the outside-very nice but basically useless for anything pertaining to be a food blog. Sorry about that.
This is a bit of a fan-post to look away if you want anything resembling hard criticism. I have eaten at this place a dozen or more times; not because I am rich, obsessive or both, but because they happen to do the best value set lunch in London. It starts at £18 for two courses, rising to £40 for a glass of champagne, three courses, two glasses of wine (a choice of three white and three red), coffee and petit fours. This includes canapes, amuse-bouche and pre-dessert.Tell me where else you can get that from a one star Michelin restaurant in the middle of London? Really-it’s amazing value.
More importantly than the value, is the quality. This is classical French cooking with a lightness of touch and such care to details that you barely want to eat the visions that are placed before you. But eat them you must!
This time, we had the tasting menu. I will now attempt to keep this short-in contrast to the actual meu!
Pan Fried Duck Foie Gras, Roasted Caramelised Apricot, Ginger Marmalade, Port Reduction
Scottish Scallops Girolles, Garlic & Parsley, Green Reduction, Coral Dressing
Summer Ceps Risotto, Parmesan & Brown Butter
Sea Bass & Baby Squid, Courgette Tempura, Courgette & Aubergine, Black Ink & Fish Sauce
Soft Piglet Belly, Glazed Baby Carrot, Fondant Leek, Cherry Jam, Pork Jus
Cheese, 22 Month Aged Comté from Jura
Raspberry, Fresh Raspberry & Fraise des Bois, Soft Blanc Manger, Crispy Milk
Louis XV, Dark Chocolate & Praline
Stand out dishes included the risotto, rich, unctuous, perfectly balanced between al dente rice and creaminess. It must be on the menu on Mount Olympus-so ambrosial the mouth-feel (still deciding if I like that word or not!). I also loved the raspberry dessert (although I am no closer to knowing what ‘crispy milk’ is). It was the essense of freshness, without being too tart. The Louis XV is one of Alexis’ signature dishes; he introduced it when he worked at Roussillon and it has not been off the menu since. It is sinfully rich. the praline in the base giving a lovely crunch to the smooth texture. It also looks beautiful. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost!
Alexis Gauthier knows how to bring the best out of plain ingredients and does not add for the sake of it. I think this shows a remarkable lack of ego for a chef to have faith in his ingredients and is not wanting to show off about his own skills. What stands out is that every dish is beautifully balanced; there seems to be the perfect amount of each ingredient to showcase it perfectly. With the exception of the risotto-I could have eaten a bucket of that!
I have not had much luck with tasting menus in the past. I have found them either too fillling, where by the end, you are just stuffing food into your mouth, not with enjoyment, but thinking ‘I must eat it, I am paying seventy-bloody-quid to enjoy this!’. Or, they are too ‘picky’-no dish is more than a small mouthful, so you end up leaving faintly dissatisfied and having to get a baguette from Paul on the way home. At Gauthier, it’s like the Goldilocks of the food world; not stuffed, not hungry, but just right.
Staff and service are fantastic, ambience is relaxed and welcoming, with a real penchant for Sade- it is a real treat. Go now, but don’t tell anyone, as they might put the prices up!