There’s always been a lot of hype about Gauthier Soho, spearheaded by the chef himself with his numerous TV appearances on programmes like Master Chef. But as Alexis has found out the hard way that you need to maintain your high standards if you are to hold onto success.
Behind a small entrance is a very cosy Victorian terrace, still broken-up into the various rooms. Coming in and being seated really builds a warm feeling and a sense of expectation. Unfortunately though for the chef, Michelin downgraded the restaurant from *1 star to nil (i.e. three sets of cutlery) in late 2012, and it’s not difficult to see why.
While the menu is filled with a giddy range of extravagant dishes, the level of the cooking is more in line with L’Escargot or Clos Maggiore, rather than Aspley’s or Club Gascon. The experience is “nice” as opposed to “wow”.
The Dorset crab is a good example of this, though, while the quality of the marinated Scottish scallops, maybe outstanding, their treatment and dressing is not ground-breaking. Fish roe is added to make it more glamorous, but sorry, this isn’t caviar (or not a good quality one as it’s very salty), so it shouldn’t be added.
And the mains are perhaps the least inspiring, with what you might expect to find on a countryside menu. Uninspired venison and pork dishes with presentation that is just as depressing. They will fill you with about as much joy as a dour Dutch masterpiece; dark and flat. However, if you scratch around a little bit, you’ll find good quality products, but they’re not cooked to any amazing standard. Though one point, and to be fair to Gauthier, he really does create some of the best desserts which most chefs are dreadful at – superb, almost exceptional. It would be worth just going for an afternoon tea.
So Gauthier leaves you with highs and lows, though it’s still a good place to go for diner, especially for romantic ones (a nice alternative to the one mentioned above). He is obviously a talented chef, he just needs to revisit his menu and focus on his best simple dishes. If he did that, he would improve leaps and bounds. There’s no need for all the fuss. As Jay Rayner would say: “when a chef starts using gold leaf on a plate, it’s to hide something…..” Perhaps some good advice.