Harden's survey result
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“A haven in a busy part of Soho” – this “delightful” Georgian townhouse is “made all the more special by having to ring the doorbell” to enter, and once inside, its “peaceful” series of rooms “exude romance”. However “it’s the food that’s the key element” – Alexis Gauthier’s “top-league French cuisine” features “brilliant flavour combinations”, and is matched by a “varied and exciting” wine list, while staff provide “wonderful hospitality from start to finish”. Top Tip – “the lunchtime deal is amazing value”.
“Ringing the doorbell adds to the special feel” of a trip to Alexis Gauthier’s “beautiful, plush and quiet” Georgian townhouse, in the heart of Soho. But while it “oozes romance and decadence”, it’s first-and-foremost a gastronomic experience, with “unbelievably slick” service and some of London’s best French cooking – “seasonal, classically based, and superb in taste and presentation”. Top Menu Tip – leave space for the “always wonderful” signature Louis IV chocolate praline dessert.
Ring the bell for entry to Alexis Gauthier’s “wonderfully quirky” Soho townhouse – a perfect venue “for a luxurious date”; the “dreamy” Gallic cuisine (with much emphasis on vegetables) and “impeccable” service are far from secondary attractions, however, and the “superb” wine list includes “some real curiosities”.
Alexis Gauthier’s “inspired” modern French cuisine goes from strength to strength, at his “quirky” and “faultlessly charming” Soho townhouse (where “ringing the door to get in adds novelty”); “I can’t understand why they lost their Michelin star!”
Gauthier Soho Restaurant Diner Reviews
"I would have loved to say it was amazing but, whereas it has everything to make it a fantastic place, some things could be improved. The starter was very good, but the meat was a bit too cooked to my taste, and the service, even if friendly, could be more professional"
"Had the "de luxe lunch" menu, three courses, two wines and champagne. Stunning value at £45, not accounting for the quality of the food which is terrific. My starter of slices of seared but otherwise raw swordfish with a Chinese-inclined dressing was inspired, and preceded a lovely composition of veal loin and sweetbreads with mousserons in a rich, reduced but well-balanced sauce. The setting is calm and charming, and the service warm and professional, if a little brisk. One of London's best."
"We had the set lunch, an excellent meal, with very good service. We enjoyed most of the little extras (the amuse-gueule of beetroot was way too salty) and all six principal dishes were delicious as well as beautifully presented. My single negative feeling relates to water: after being seated but before we'd had a chance to look at the menu, we were offered water, asked for sparkling and got a bottle of Badoit; very nice too, but we were annoyed to find on looking at the menu that sparkling water from a carafe was free. We felt that we had been hustled into paying £4.75 plus service for something that we would not have ordered otherwise. When I complained by e-mail later the owner was apologetic and offered to reimburse, fair enough. The dining room is elegant, but very quiet."
"The 3 course lunch de luxe with a glass of champagne and two glasses of wine for £45 is tremendous value..reminds me of Le Gavroche a decade ago."
"I still haven't tired of it!"
"Charming restaurant in an old Soho townhouse where you ring the front door bell to enter. Impeccable service."
"The trouble is, all my luncheon companions from out of Town now all want to eat here, so I find myself lunching chez Gauthier three times in three weeks. What a penance!"
"Very quiet background music has crept in, which I deplore; I was quite happy before, with only '70s disco music playing in the gents. In all other respects, the place is still a marvel, even if the set lunch has gone up by £5, the first increase since opening around six years ago. Wonderful."
In a small townhouse quietly located in the heart of Soho, a Gallic restaurant run by Alexis Gauthier, formerly of Pimlico's celebrated Roussillon - on our early-days visit, there was no sign that the magic had transferred.
Chef from well-known and long-established 'hidden gem' restaurant (Rousillon) sets up on his own in cute West End townhouse (once associated with Richard Corrigan), to offer a refined Gallic formula at reasonable prices. What could possibly not be to like about this Soho newcomer?
Oh dear. We so much wanted - and expected - to like Alexis Gauthier's new restaurant. But we just didn't. That's no reflection at all on the hard-working staff (many also ex-Roussillon), who are invariably charming. But there's no getting away from it: the sentiments the place inspired were ultimately of total indifference.
First problem is the setting. A ring-to-enter townhouse just off Soho's throbbing main drag sounds a dream location, but the reality is that each of the individual floors, tastefully but somewhat blandly decorated, is very small. The entry level consisted of four tables, leaving everyone hostage to the loudly expressed views of humourless bores and, indeed, one such was present on the night of our visit. (Lest there be any doubt, we exclude ourselves from that reckoning.)
The second problem is the food, which may well be a function of the setting: the best food, an eminent restaurateur-turned-critic once confided to us, never comes out of basement kitchens. (Think Ritz!)
Perhaps that's why the overwhelming impression of the dishes we sampled was blandness. Some of this may have been a function of simple under-seasoning, but this is a restaurant which will live or die by its food, and only two of the seven dishes we sampled - herb-crusted halibut with ginger, and lamb with asparagus - raised more than a flicker of interest.
This is all the less forgivable when Gauthier has imposed on himself a worst-of-all-worlds formula for modern dining. Dishes are offered in fashionable 'tasting' portions (albeit fairly large ones), but not - Ã la maze, say - on an informal 'as it comes' basis. Rather they come in traditional, sequential mode, with Michelin-pleasing pomp each time. (Even, hilariously, sometimes with cloches, though perhaps understandable given the set-up.)
The result of this approach is obvious: attention is focussed remorselessly on each dish in turn, and if it does not live up to expectations there is nowhere for the kitchen to hide. And, if you have a bore on the next table, nowhere for the customer either.
21 Romilly St, London, W1D 5AF
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Tues-Sat 12N-2.30pm Mon-Sat 6.30-10.30pm
Last orders: Tue-Thu 9.30 pm, Fri & Sat 10.30 pm