Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our favourite restaurant menus ever

We're unashamed menu fans here, and love nothing more than poring over a grand old magnum opus of some ancient long-gone restaurant. Probably terribly naff these days, but what the hell. Naff is cool. 
Here, we've gathered together a little collection of our personal favourites. 

(Photographed from our own collection)

Oustau de Baumaniere, Baux de Provence, France: 1990

Oustau de Baumaniere, Baux de Provence, France: 1990 So wide you need to share it to read it. From the L’Oasis school of ostentation. Commissioned illustration.

Jamin, Paris, France: 1991

Jamin, Paris, France: 1991 Reflects everything Joel Robuchon stands for. Refined, smart, small, precise, thoughtful. Pensive. Confident.

Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France: 1988

Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France: 1988 Beautiful, though I think if you did this today you would be taken to court and charged with pretentiousness. Commissioned psuedo-surrealism fr watercolour illustration, Conqueror paper (illustration by Michel Granger, of Jean Michel Jarre fame).

Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse, Monte Carlo, Monaco: 1995

Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse, Monte Carlo, Monaco: 1995  Faux baroque, embossed card. Possibly the antithesis of what is fashionable in London today, and quite the reason to love it. In 2025 it will probably look very similar. I hope.

Fouquet’s, Paris, France: 1990

Fouquet’s, Paris, France: 1990 The most famous restaurant in the Champs-Élysées. If you want to create a brasserie anywhere in the world, this is first place to look. At the time, more crazily different ingredients than any restaurant in the world. Classic 80s Paris.

Pharmacy (Notting Hill Gate), London: 1999 (est)

Pharmacy (Notting Hill Gate), London: 1999 (est) A great example of ‘trends’ in menu (and restaurant) design. Seems so dated now! Fun. Doomed.

Taillevent, Paris, France: 1991

Taillevent, Paris, France: 1991 THE menu. Spirit of Escoffier. Completely French wine list. So snobby, not even all of France is allowed. 100% Bordeaux, Bourgognes and a few Côtes du Rhône! We love this one so much, it's hung in the corner of our Grand Salon at Gauthier Soho.

L’Oasis, La Napoule, nr. Cannes, France: 1994

L’Oasis, La Napoule, nr. Cannes, France: 1994 Massive, (almost 1m2!). Unashamed in its vulgarity. Anyone who needs a “Caravane de Desserts” is not here to appear frugal. Classic flash Cote d’Azur.

Scott’s, London: 2005

Scott’s, London: 2005 The quintessential London menu. Unfussy, clever, straight to the point. User friendly. Also could easily be The Ivy.

Harry’s Bar, London: 2003

Harry’s Bar, London: 2003 The real private club menu. Complicated, all in Italian with no translation, super expensive but refined to the extreme. Austere.

Monday, November 16, 2015


The shocking incidents on Friday night in Paris have made me think about this industry slightly more deeply than usual.
Restaurants began life as places to revive, feel welcome, feel comfortable, well fed and restored. The last thing you expect to feel in a restaurant is scared.
When terrorists choose restaurants to attack, they are identifying the softest most vulnerable target. This makes it all the more deplorable in my eyes.

I was reminded over the weekend of the fact that terrorism has plagued in the restaurant industry many times before.
In the 1970s in London, it was not unusual for restaurants to be held to ransom by the IRA, bombing and shooting and following up with extortion demands. In fact, between 1974 and 1975 there were 40 bombs exploded in London, killing 35 and injuring hundreds more. Many of these featured restaurants and hotels.

In 1975 the now legendary Scott’s in Mount St, Mayfair was subject to one such attack, bombed (killing one and injuring 15 others) and then attacked with a drive by shooting the following week.
The resulting police chase culminated with the Balcombe Street Siege.

I think it’s worth remembering the industry we are in, hospitality. We trade in happiness, warmth and generosity. The very things a terrorist wants to undermine.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Behind the Scenes at 'Soho Create' with Alexis Gauthier

An interesting interview from back in June with Alexis at the Soho Create festival, where he talks about life in a changing Soho.

Soho Create is an annual festival celebrating all the extraordinary offerings of London’s most vibrant district –Soho. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and well curated, Soho Create is a platform to share the best of modern art and creativity. At ‘The Art of Live’ discussion, Comedian Sara Pascoe, chef Alexis Gauthier, and theatre director Steve Marmion came together and shared their perspectives on the live moment. 

L- R - Journalist Craig McLean, Alexis Gauthier, Sara Pascoe and Steve Marmion | Courtesy Stuart Keegan on behalf of Soho Create
Whether on stage, facing a live audience, or catering to a crowd at a restaurant - a single moment has the power to delight or disappoint. With so much effort involved in creating the live moment, what does it mean to a live performer or a chef who aims to present his ideas in edible form? To shed light on the ‘The Art of Live’ and to discuss food, the vibe that attracted him to Soho, and more, we interviewed Chef patron of Gautheir Soho – Alexis Gauthier. Famous for being the U.K’s first Michelin-starred chef to include a calorie count for every dish on his menu, Gauthier Soho boasts a strong celebrity following. French celebrity chef, Alexis, has succeeded in creating a space where many of his customers become regulars, and the food manages to delight and wow as much as the ambience.

Q. We live in an age obsessed with social media, and that means diners taking selfies with their food. Do you think that taints the experience of fine-dining at your restaurant?

A. No not at all. I believe we should all be free to live as we want to, and my restaurant is about feeling relaxed and comfortable and enjoying yourself. If you enjoy taking pictures of the food, and you’re not constantly using a flash or bothering others, then please go ahead. It’s good for business exposure anyway.

Q. When you were asked at 'The Art of live' session at Soho Create who in your field of work is the best live performer, your answer was 'The Pope'. Could you elaborate on that for our readers?

A. It was such a broad question I couldn’t think of a better answer. Of course there are people I’ve seen live from popular culture - Coldplay, The Cure, Peter Gabriel for example - who are fantastic at capturing an audience’s attention through art and charisma. But the Pope - like other global religious or political leaders - is commanding attention through completely different channels, and their live performances are founded on a much greater responsibility.

Q. With the new residential development around Soho, and campaigns to 'clean up' Soho, do you think it is losing the charm and mystique associated with Soho's dark side?

A. For me, the cleaning up and regenerating of Soho is inevitable, but slightly sad, and sometimes I don’t see the logic in it. All the estate agents are selling these super apartments and restaurant rents on the dark, independent, seedier side of Soho, it’s as if they are saying ‘hey, come and live in Soho, it’s where the gay scene is, it’s where the cool creative kids hang out, it's where naughty things happen’.I think the biggest problem will be when the last dark alleyway, sex club and grimy bar is finally replaced with a shiny apartment block or branch of Starbucks, the very thing Soho is sold on will be lost. It will simply become a central London version of an airport lounge shopping centre. Who will want to live in a central London Westfield? The same thing happened in the 90s with Greenwich Village in New York. It went super ‘normcore’, and nobody wants to be there now. It’s a ghost town. Everyone went to Brooklyn.

Q. You believe in the freelance style of cooking without the use of scales, does that apply to when you bake as well? Especially as baking is considered to be such a precise science.

A. Because baking is such a precise science, there are rules and timings you simply have to adhere too, if you want consistency in fine patisserie for example. But there is always room for a little self-expression and freedom, especially with rustic breads and puddings.

Q. Which chef most influenced you at the start of your career?

A. Alain Ducasse, Alice Waters, Roger Vergé

Q. To a first timer at your restaurant, what dishes would you recommend they try?

A. Well, our classics are the truffle risotto (best in October/November, when the white truffle is in season) and the Golden Louis XV chocolate pudding, both directly influenced from my time in Monaco in the early 90s.
I would recommend also they try the tasting menu, which changes every season. It is the best way of enjoying a little bit of everything we try to do best, without the burden of choice. Apart from those, the fresh brioche we make daily in the kitchen is always wonderful, and that’s free! You can eat as much as you like.

This article was originally posted on theculturetrip.com. 
By Manjiri Chitnis of Sliceoffme blog
Sliceoffme is a food,travel and lifestyle blog with fusion recipes, reviews and more. Moving soon to ‘travelsfortaste’ with lots of tips of the best places to stay and eat at while you are travelling. Twitter: @manjirichitnis Instagram: travelsfortaste

Monday, October 05, 2015

10 rules for running a restaurant

I wrote this list because over the years I've found myself repeating bits of this mantra to my staff, over and over again. I think it's all relevant today.

Alexis Gauthier

1. Going to a restaurant should make the customer feel special. 

Restored. This, without contest, is by far the most important thing to remember.

2. A customer should not have to remind you of personal preferences. 

For example: If a customer has been more than once in the past year, and each time they mentioned they were allergic to shellfish, this should be remembered.

3. A restaurant should be flexible and cater for all of its guests. 

Take dietary requests with grace and menu choices with a smile. If someone wants a tasting menu and the others a la carte, of course that will be no problem. Nobody goes to a restaurant to obey petty little menu rules from an uptight cook and be ordered around like a child at school by an overzealous restaurant manager.

4. Give a little love. 

A great example is when my grandmother used to cut the crusts off sandwiches when I was a child, because she knew I liked it like that. No crusts just made the sandwich a little bit more special, and I loved my grandmother all the more for it. If you apply that philosophy to every dish and bit of service in some way, the love will transfer to your guests.

5. Kill problems with kindness. 

You will always get the odd problem customers. Deal with all problems with humility, generosity and kindness. It is amazing how a bad experience dealt with calmly and generously can turn a furious customer into your most faithful regular and ambassador.

6. Look after your regulars. 

Returning customers are 5x more valuable than new customers, and worth 5x more effort to keep happy than constantly investing in finding new customers. You’ve already won them over, now it’s your job to reconfirm their affections. Get this right, and every time they visit they will act as your best ambassador.

7. Be careful of the ‘them and us’ attitude.

Visiting a restaurant is not like going to a show. At a show, or a football match, or a concert, you are part of the audience, watching a performance. Nothing more. You buy your ticket, you’re herded in, you patiently wait, you watch the show, you leave.
At a restaurant, it is not them and us. We are not performers, we are friends. The customer is a fundamental part of the experience, and the whole time there should be constantly organically adapting to reflect that. 

8. Make your booking process as friendly and convenient as possible. 
The moment a customer makes the decision to book a table, picks up the phone or books online, you have become their servant. Make the process as easy and hassle free as possible, just as if you were their personal PA.
Work as hard as you can to allow for your guests booking late, if that’s what they sometimes do. Late cancellations should be taken with good grace. Life is like that, we can’t always predict. A good restaurant will understand that life doesn’t always run smoothly, and your customers will love you for that.

9. Be very careful with heavy-handed rules. 

Same with regulations, taking deposits, giving table time limits, terms and conditions. The experience of going to a restaurant begins far earlier than when they sit down at the table, and the worst possible thing to do is put guests in a bad frame of mind before they’ve even arrived. Make them love you before they've arrived. Half the job is done.

10. Don’t take yourself too seriously. 

Remember we are just chefs, waiters and customers, We are not prophets and disciples. This is not medicine or politics. We are simply feeding appetites and making people comfortable. And thank God for that. 

All The Best Parties Happen in Soho....

Party season is upon us!

Gauthier Soho, the classic five-storey Georgian Townhouse at 21 Romilly Street, is the perfect setting for a really special dining celebration. Five independent rooms offer a completely personal dining experience, with flexible table arrangements, versatile menu choices and all the special touches you expect from Damian, Pierre, Claudiu and the rest of the team. 

All party menus include complimentary gifts of canapé, amuse bouche and pre-dessert courses for each guest, with prices starting at £30 for three courses.

Call Events Manager Samuel Aiglon now on 0207 494 3111 or email s.aiglon@gauthiersoho.co.uk to enquire about your party.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Autumn Arrives in Style

Only a few weeks ago, the sight and smell of bright red strawberries would have sufficed to tame my hunger. I was stuck in summer and couldn’t imagine having anything else. But now the weather is changing, I dream of shiny and wet pumpkin; sweet and intense roots; purple and dark fruits; gamey flavours and much more robust ingredients.
Imagine how excited we were when we received our first perfectly formed and ripened butternut squash. It was like a toy; we had to touch it, feel it, smell it. A trophy. Odd for some but completely natural for us. 
I wrote our autumn menu exclusively with my dream ingredients in mind. I have tried to find other ways of inspiration, for example by experimenting with cooking techniques. It just doesn't work for me. I also force myself not to eat in other restaurants during my menu creation. I am scared it might influence me and would ultimately make me lose my focus on ingredients. This also means that dishes might not change drastically from year to year. They certainly evolve but at a very organic pace.

I hope you enjoy the new Autumn menu as much as we have creating it. Personally I think it's our best yet!
I hope to see you all soon,


Thursday, September 03, 2015

Celebrating our 5th Birthday

This August we celebrated our 5th birthday, and to mark this special occasion we invited all of our closest friends to join us with a whole month of feasting. Each guest was presented with an original piece of specially comissioned artwork depicting a table setting in the Grand Salon to take home as a thank you to them for coming. Every single day in August we were full with guests and we couldn’t be more grateful. 

Thank you and Happy Birthday to us!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

'The best surviving interior on the street'

Beware: the following may only interest the London domestic architecture geeks among us.

I'm always very interested in the history of our building, but ashamed to say often referring to it rather lazily as a 'Regency townhouse' due to it's 'demi-lune' overdoor so reminiscent of this style. After a little searching however, I've discovered the building is in fact much earlier, being built in 1738-9, making it early George III. The text below very flatteringly describes No. 21 as having 'the best surviving interior of the street', and we are happy to say it's still very much surviving.

Another pleasant discovery is the noting of an assumed previous resident, the artist George Clint (no relation to the 1970s funk pioneer), who exhibited from the house in 1805. 

All following text property of the British History Online Archive http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols33-4/pp202-205

Nos. 21 and 22 Romilly Street
These houses were built in 1738–9, under two Portland leases neither of which was a building lease. No. 21 was built under a sixty-five-year lease to Thomas Cuthbert of St. Anne's, described as 'gentleman' but probably the tallow chandler of that name, and No. 22 under a thirty-five-year lease to Jane Allam of Paddington, spinster, a descendant of Joseph Girle, the early lessee of all Soho Fields. The first occupant of No. 21 was Richard Stainsby, described as 'gentleman' and at one time nominal mortgagee of the Pitt estate. The painter, George Clint, exhibited from the same house in 1805.

The two houses are of closely similar proportions, each of them containing a basement and four storeys, and having a brick front three windows wide (pictured below). The fronts are now of little interest because that of No. 21 has been painted and that of No. 22 completely rebuilt in modern times. However, the original segmental gauged arches of the second- and thirdstorey windows can still be seen at No. 21, where the different character of the windows in the fourth storey shows this to be a later addition. The back wall of No. 21 is of purple-red brick, the windows with rough segmental arches and containing flush frames.

21 Romilly Street (Third from left) 1964, then as Taj Mahal restaurant.

The houses have the standard plan of a single front and back room, the latter with a dog-legged staircase beside it on the east and a projecting closet-wing on the north. The interior finishings are not well preserved and much of what remains has been concealed by asbestos sheeting. At No. 21, which has the best surviving interior in the street, the entrance hall and the first two storeys of the stair compartment are lined with ovolomoulded panelling in two heights. This is finished with a moulded dado-rail and a boxcornice, the hall having a dentilled cornice and a pair of plain pilasters flanking the entrance to the stair compartment. The lower flights of the staircase have been completely boxed in, but those at the top of the house have moulded closed strings, turned balusters, and column-newels with big square heads. Box-cornices are still visible in the ground- and first-floor rooms, the groundfloor front room having a dentilled cornice and the room above fragments of ovolo-moulded panelling.

Mouldings on ground & first floor stairs.

Panelling ground floor to bathrooms

Panelling Ground floor to bathrooms

Particularly interesting and possibly earliest balustrading, found at the very top floor landing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Staff Profile: Francois Chateau

Assistant Restaurant Manager Francois Chateau has been with Gauthier Soho for four years. His professional attitude and natural character with the customers has proved a highly successful combination. Here he speaks to James Lewis, shedding light on his life at Gauthier Soho and providing an interesting insight into to the industry from a service point of view.

JL: What made you get into the hospitality industry?

FC: I was born in Bordeaux. I moved to Paris at a very young age, where my mother ran a small restaurant on a boat on the River Seine. My father was in the military so we moved around a lot.
At one point we went for a few years to Ile de la Reunion, a tiny French island near Madagascar.
Finally we moved to Cognac, where my mother taught at a local catering school.
I wasn’t so good at conventional school, so I spent most of my time helping my mother with the students at the catering school. I loved it there.

So hospitality was always your aim?

No, Actually I tried different things. Engineering was an option. But catering was the thing I felt most comfortable with.

What made you want to come to London?

I was working for a fantastic restaurant, with a great team. I learned so much there, the staff were extremely experienced and lived and breathed years of knowledge. But I realised I needed to speak English to advance myself in the industry. So London was the place for me.

There’s a huge demand for catering staff in London at the moment, and here in the UK some employers have the feeling that foreign staff work harder or are more motivated. Do you agree with this?

It’s not only a UK thing. In France it’s the same. In my home town many of the local French staff are lazy and demanding, expecting special treatment, not wanting to work hard. Maybe it’s the fact that when you are away from home, you have a purpose. Your attitude is you are there to work.
To be honest, for me this is great. If people are lazy then it means more opportunity for me.
Also, I don’t have many distractions here. In France I would go kite-surfing or skiing at the weekend. Socialising with my friends etc. Because of my hours I get maybe one night out a week.

Are there any downsides to living in London?

The cost of living is high. My friend and I choose to live in a nice place, around Borough Market. It’s beautiful and convenient but very expensive.

From a non-British point of view, what do you think of the industry? How easy is it for non-British workers to find employment?

It’s very easy. The London hospitality industry is booming. There is a huge demand. Probably 10 or more jobs for every worker. When I hear people saying ‘there is no work’ or asking for money from the government I wonder what planet they are on. The only thing you need is an attitude to work hard.

What do you think of the phrase ‘fine-dining’? Do you think it is still relevant in the restaurant scene today?

I think there is always a need for a place where you go to feel a bit special. ‘Fine-dining’ is not a good expression, it sounds dated. But the truth is restaurants that really focus on the comfort of the customer will always find business. People remember the experience for all the right reasons and go back to them.
Gauthier Soho is an example of this. I hear a lot of places are taking the ‘informal’ route, which is great, but the market is becoming saturated with this. It’s not so special for me.

Which of London’s restaurants do you like best?

I go a lot, mostly on Sundays and Mondays. Of course I’m a fan of places that celebrate a bit of luxury. My favourites have been The Waterside Inn, Sketch, Hibiscus, The Square, Kitchen W8, Pollen Street Social. For a less formal occasion I like Brindisa. All very good restaurants.

What do you think makes Gauthier Soho an attractive place to go?

Well, apart from the good looking staff, I have to say the price is a huge part. We offer the diner the kind of service, luxury, comfort, space, familiarity found at places much, much more expensive. People like to feel special, really looked after, and we offer this for an extremely reasonable price. 
You can come here and have lunch, 3 courses, wine, Champagne, water, bread, canapés, amuse bouches, pre-desserts, petits fours, coffee and all the little touches you would expect at a grand hotel in Monaco, but you pay £45. £45! I know restaurants in London where a course of Dover sole costs this alone. 

Would would you say was the key to successful service?

Regulars. At Gauthier we do more than anywhere I’ve ever known to focus on keeping regular customers. It’s true that with regulars you do half the work, they already know they love you. But the thing is, you have already done three or four times the work to make them regulars. Over time you build a relationship, just like a friend. I really consider them friends. Some are very generous, I’ve been given gifts, invitations to holiday around the world, all sorts of things. It’s very flattering.

What’s the secret to building the relationship?

Anticipation. If the customer wants to be left alone, leave them alone. If they want conversation, give them that. Most people want to be recognised, so remember this. Remember their little peculiarities and special requests. 
I always say, the ultimate luxury is to not have to ask for things. For somebody to know already what you want.
It’s crazy, you work all your life to be able to afford expensive things, yet the things you really appreciate are free.

You’re becoming known for your Cognac list. Tell us about it.

I’m from Cognac and yes it has become a special passion of mine. I’ve built a small but very interesting Cognac list, involving some of my favourites. Some of the makers are even old friends of mine. It’s funny, Cognac. Such a globally known but tiny little town, with so many well known producers. The Cointreau family & Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell , Frapin. And not just brandy. Grey Goose Vodka comes from Cognac. Did you know that?

No, I didn’t. So anyway, any last words for the readers?

Yes, of course. Come back and see me soon. 

Francois is on twitter @chateaufrancoi1

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