Tuesday 7 December 2010

Le Gauthier, Romilly Street, central London

Housed in a discreet Regency Town House, Le Gauthier has a reverential, almost ecclesiastical ambiance, in which gastronomy, rather than God, is the focus. You ring the doorbell and stand in the hall, before the staff usher you into a very small bar, which doubles as a wine cellar, for an aperitif. Once you have pulled up a chair in the smart, mostly-white dining room, you are served a steady succession of free morsels, such as quail eggs, home-baked bread rolls (the bacon one is very good), and crab with guacamole sauce. Everything is beautifully-presented. The five course menu (3 plates £35, four plates £45, five plates £55) has several options for each course.  The crayfish velouté, served with chicken liver, truffle and chervil, can be too subtle and short of seasoning. Better are the ultra-fresh scallops served with caramelized red onions in a chard sauce. Another hit is the succulent cut of venison, served with celeriac cream and cabbage, topped with a delicate truffle garnish.  If you aren't squeamish, you are also likely to enjoy the fine, sweet foie gras, served with apple, sultanas, herbs and a calavados sauce.

Expansive and expensive
The fillet of Dover sole is a small, salty, tasty tube of fish, served with a celeriac ravioli, Jerez vinegar reduction and a beef-orange jus, while the roast lamb, served with root vegetables, consists of half-a-dozen large pellets of meat. It seems to be a mix of cuts: some quite solid and some juicy and falling apart.  The wine list is both expansive and expensive. Although the pinot noir from Alsace is light, refreshing and drinkable, it probably isn't worth £32 a bottle. Still, you can forgo desert and enjoy the free trio of homemade chocolates, including a melt-in-your mouth coconut marshmallow. Service (12.5% optional charge) by the white-shirted French waiters and waitresses is efficient, but they can seem a little stressed at times.  Still, Le Gauthier's imaginative dishes should be enough to delight most foodies. 8/10