We are a big admirer of the pursuit of vegan plant-based French gastronomy that Chef Alexis Gauthier is embarking on. But we were left unconvinced with the success so far on our recent visit in Oct 2021. Dishes were beautifully presented, the use of ingredients were extensive but the required flavours still eluded the chef. Service remained top-notched but the main dining rooms were worn-out and in need of an update.
What is the food like?
Since 23rd June 2021, Gauthier Soho only serves plant-based vegan French gastronomy. Renowned chef Alexis Gauthier once held a Michelin-star here in 2011. He turned vegan in 2016 and has spent the last 5 years perfecting the elements and removing animal products from his kitchen.
The mandatory fine-dining tasting menu is a showcase of meat alternatives. Instead of steak tartar, we were presented with a playful carrot tartar made from the nutritious black heritage carrot. Instead of pork tenderloin, we had mushroom in red wine and juniper sauce and instead of cheese made from milk, we had one made from walnut paired with plum marmalade chutney.
Chef has researched and borrowed flavours and methods across the globe to recreate the culinary experience like using Japanese dashi as a rich heavy stock as well as using agar agar to recreate the popping effect of caviar. We were not convinced with the result just yet. Dishes were beautifully presented, the use of ingredients were extensive but the required flavours still eluded the chef. But keep up the great work.
How is the drinks selection?
A good curated selection of French wines with a few from the rest of Old World and New World for good measure. There are 6-7 selection of whites and reds each from each of the French wine regions like Burgundy, Loire Valley, Rhône Valley, Savoie and obviously Bordeaux. Majority of bottles are priced between £70 to £200.
What is the place like?
Intimate but worn out. Gauthier occupies a smart-looking 4-storey townhouse in the middle of trendy Soho in London. It feels like a typical Victorian private residence with its narrow hallways, creaky stairs, carpeted floors and distinct rooms. The main dining spaces are on the ground and 1st floor. Although they have high ceilings, ornate fireplaces, white-clothed tables, the rooms are overly plain, tired looking and feel a bit impersonal. The lighting is sleepy and there is a slight draught if you are sitting by the window.
The private dining rooms on the 2nd floor, Hidden Room (6-10 pax) and Games Room (up to 18 pax), have much more of a character to them with their vintage prints, chandelier and artwork.
Who are the patrons?
Older adults on a special date night or families with teenage children. Although it is smart casual, patrons tend to be more formally dressed and a cocktail dress won’t feel out of place in Gauthier Soho.
How was the service?
Classy and friendly. Sylvain, our waiter for the evening, was very knowledgable about the menu and dishes. Smartly dressed in a black suit with a bow tie and a smile, our drinks order were taken swiftly and dishes rolled out like clockwork.
Is it child friendly?
Not a place for babies due to the intimacy of the place but absolutely fine for well-behaved children with curious tastebuds.
Is it dog friendly?
At £75++ per person for a vegan tasting menu, it is fairly priced for a professionally executed French fine dining affair in central London.
A 12.5% additional service is applied to quoted prices.
See below for what my dining companions and I indulged in for this review (prices quoted excludes 12.5% service charge):
2015 Domaine Arlaud Morey-Saint-Denis
This clear red 100% Burgundy pinot noir wine from Morey-Saint-Denis by Domaine Arlaud is citrusy on the nose with a hint of pomegranate and chestnut. It is medium bodied with a sharp acidity. Deep rich flavours of oak and red berries after aeration. £143
Banyuls Rimage Domaine de Valcros
This dark red ruby fortified wine is packed with rich aroma of raisins and cherries. It has a heavy plum-like sweetness on the palate which goes brilliantly with the Louis XV indulgent chocolate dessert. £12 per glass of 50ml
“Les Plantes” tasting menu, £75 per person
1. Sous-bois d’automne of herbs, mushroom & green roots and pumpkin bun with roasted seeds and plant butter
Beautifully warm and fluffy pumpkin bun with crunchy pumpkin seeds served with a seaweed-flavoured vegan butter. The vegan butter was underwhelming and the seaweed flavour wasn’t coming through. The pasta parcels or crackers with mushroom fillings were amazing. Satisfying crunch leading to rich, woody flavours that dances on your tastebuds.
2. Grey vetiver – Amber wood & moss
Named after a signature perfume from Tom Ford, which was apparently a favourite of the chef, the dish arrived covered in a cloche filled with smoke. on removing the smoke swirls around revealing a little forest within a bowl. It was a salad of parsnip sticks glaced with beetroot, mashed potatoes with chives and a couple slices of crunchy Jerusalem artichoke. The dish was served with a marmite-like umami broth. Loved the crunchy artichoke, but not convinced by the salty broth and bland mashed potato and equally bland beetroot-coloured parsnip.
3. Autumn truffle – soft berlingot & truffle in rich dashi sauce
Berlingots are a traditional French hard sweets in a shape of a pyramid. Chef has playfully recreated it in a soft Chinese dumpling-like parcels filled with vegan parmesan cheese. It was served in a rich creamy shiitake mushroom and dashi sauce as well as a generous shaving of black truffle. A delicious dish lead by the mouth-watering truffle flavour working gorgeously with the cheesy, creamy sauce and light dumplings.
4. Red carrot tartar with plum, ginger, red onion, sorrel and melba toast
The most beautiful dish by far of the evening. The depth of the black on the heritage carrot provided a platform for the striking colours of the beetroot and carrot puree. Unfortunately, it did not taste as good as it looked. It was a mush of ingredients with very subtle and unmemorable flavours.
5. Sea quenelle of plant caviar with oyster leaf, vin jaune & fin feuilleté
The fish dish. Vegan smoked salmon, seaweed caviar and white fish recreated with smoked tofu and a rice flour. The smoked salmon tasted exactly like salmon, but the smoked tofu was bland and uninspiring. Absolutely loved the pop-in-your-mouth caviar made with seaweed and agar agar.
6. Red wine & juniper glazed mushroom loin – poached conference pear, celeriac pureé, carrot pressé
We got to the main course. Instead of a pork tenderloin, we have a mushroom-loin. A dish of wild mushroom served with poached pear, celeriac pureé and carrot & potato pressé in a red wine and juniper sauce. It also came with a small bowl of green salad with fresh slices of pear. We were split on this dish. Half of us thought it was flavoursome and delicious, while the other half thought it was too much of a clash of flavours.
7. Soho walnut bleu with plum marmalade and raspberry sorbet
This is Chef Gauthier’s replacement dish for the cheese course. The creamy soft cheese is made by blending soaked cashew nut with nutritional yeasts and herbs. It was served with a plum and raisin marmalade chutney and a thinly sliced sourdough toast. The flavours were too subtle for our liking. The show was stolen by the complementing raspberry sorbet with its sharp sweet freshness.
8. Louis XV à l’Or – praline, almond, hazelnut & dark chocolate
Favourite dish of the night. An indulgent and luxurious dessert as the name suggests. A mirror glaced dark chocolate finish enveloping a hazelnut & almond dacquoise topped with a rectangle of gold leaf. The hazelnut & almond vegan meringue was a touch stodgy but the hint of salt in the chocolate balanced out the sweetness beautifully.