Gauthier – Vegetronic Tasting menu review

Since a visit during London Restaurant Festival a few years back, we’ve always been fans of Gauthier Soho. With my coming from a background of vegetarianism, and the Canadian coming from a background of out-and-out carnivorousness we always found Gauthier to be a good middle ground.

Of course, these days, my vegetarianism is all but a distant memory, and the carnivores reign supreme – so tucking into all Gauthier had to offer was on the cards for me this time.

I should probably start by mentioning the overall ambience of the restaurant, and I’m going to do it in a bulleted list:

  • You ring a doorbell and go in through a front door – this was a brand new experience to me first time round, and very much puts you in the mind of going to a posh friend’s house for dinner.
  • There are often pillows on the seats – for comfort, naturally.
  • The lighting is soft and a lot like how you might light your own home if having a dinner party.
  • There is loud music in the toilets, and soft background music in the main dining area. It’s like walking into the toilets and finding a rave is continuing on in a more appropriate place.
  • Sometimes the tables are set up so that you and your dining partner are both facing outwards, in the mannar of surveying the room.
  • The waiters are well mannered and informed, and attentive throughout service.

So, now to the actual food. The Vegetronic tasting menu went a little something like this:

A small bite: squid ink crisp with avocado moose and toast with tomato confit and basil

We thought: ruddy lovely, we’ll have more of that thank you.

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An aperitif: jasmine scented hydromel

We thought: possibly an acquired taste, I (Charlie) love Jasmin tea so the taste was very pleasant to me, whereas Ty found the whole drink a little hard going. Still, not a drop was left.

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A pre-starter: ovenbaked carrot and fish skin

We thought: lovely, crispy, unctuous fish skin which worked really well with the carrot. The sauce that accompanied was a little too salty for our tastes and my carrot did seem just a tad over.

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A starter: green asparagus with quail’s eggs, confit lemon and parmesan crisps

We thought: very excited when we saw it coming up on the menu and it tasted as good as it sounds. Perfectly poached quail’s eggs and the asparagus with crunchy parmesan crisps just made it. The only query we had was on the confit lemon; it was very strong and even seemed to detract from the taste of the parmesan crisps (oh the shame!). Perhaps it was meant to refresh the palate, but I personally think the dish would have been fine without that.

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A post-starter: umami bomb, wild mustard custard

We thought: up there with favourite dish of the entire menu. The name really says it all, the textures of the dish were amazing as well: smooth custards with the firmness of really well cooked wild mushrooms with a piece of crispy panchetta. An accomplished dish and a memorable moment in the meal.

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A fish dish: bamboo steamed cod, garlic leaves, croutons and cos lettuce

We thought: although the cod was cooked perfectly and the croutons a delightful crunchy addition to the dish, overall the flavour didn’t quite deliver for us and the garlic leaves didn’t seem to have the punch we’re used to (perhaps because it’s earlier in the season or perhaps the cold weather?) and again the dish was a bit too salty for our tastes.

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To cleanse: peppered lemon infusion with sugared celery and cucumber sobet

We thought: very well-timed dish, I was just beginning to feel full and needed something light and palette cleansing to see me through the remainder of the menu. The cucumber sobet was awesome (but not in the Vegetronic cookbook it seems) and it was a pleasing and surprising way to treat celery.

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And now for dessert: compote of rhubarb, Indonesian pepper and fresh goat’s cheese

We thought: having a sweet tooth, I always hold out for dessert and it will (by and large) be my favourite course – this did not disappoint me or the Canadian (who does not have quite the sweet tooth I do). There was a decidedly savoury note and the goat’s cheese worked wonders with the rhubarb. I’m not entirely sure what made up the little floating dots, almost like mini, very light, slightly salty, meringues. It rocked. Alas, this picture doesn’t do it justice.

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Finally: lovage bubblegum, orange blossom marshmallow, sugared quince carrot and olive oil petits fours

We thought: specifically, I thought, “how delightful”. You can see my Vine of this part of the meal here. My favourite was the orange blossom marshmallow which was just wonderful. The lovage bubblegum was tasty, but this taste only lasts a short amount of time before giving over to what you’d expect from gum that’s lost it’s flavour. No matter how much I wanted to – I just couldn’t bring myself to blow a big bubble with the gum in the restaurant.

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We drank: strawberry vermouth, Pommeau De Normandie and coffee to finish

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Total bill: £191.25 (including service)

Cost of tasting menu: £136.00 (with two copies of the Vegetronic cook book included)

Cost of drinks: £34

Overall thoughts on Vegetronic tasting menu: more than 3 hours of dining with fantastic food in one of our favourite places to eat, great waiters and two books included. Highly recommend a visit.

Bone Daddies is the daddy

After much anticipation, a lot of schedule crunching and really just any old excuse – we finally made it to Bone Daddies.

I, and the rest of my party of 4, arrived hungry. I found the big windows, communal layout and lighting all very delightful. In short, Bone Daddies looked like an ideal refuge out of the London drizzle.

Unlike all my incredibly enthusiastic dining buddies, I had not studied the menu in intricate detail before hand – so it was my very first perusal in the restaurant. One thing I’d say, being a sometimes veggie, this is not a place for vegetarians; all the stocks are make with bones and every bowl of ramen comes with meat. No bad thing when you’re a sometimes veggie, if you’re a full time one you might just be having a side of mizuna.

Choices, choices…

Being a hungry group, we ordered snacks and mains. This means we started with a helping of yellowtail sashimi, fried chicken and softshell crab. The sashimi came surrounded with a sort of tart soy dressing. I usually prefer my sushi dipping sauces on the side, but as the review on Cheese and Biscuits says, Bone Daddies isn’t going for authentic; and this sashimi just happened to work.

The fried chicken was described by one of my party as “the KFC popcorn chicken – but good”. I had a taste and it was perfect, crunchy moreishness. Suffice to say, it was polished off before you could say Colonel Sanders.

Crunchy tasty chickeny goodness with a slice of lemon – this photo does not do it justice.

The softshell crab was a sight to behold and a generous portion (you got your monies worth at £8 a pop) – this was also polished off quickly, with the accompanying green chilli ginger sauce being a hit with all concerned. It might just be me, but the crab could have done with a touch more seasoning and a little more crunch in the batter. But that is a minor complaint – there was not a bit left.

That velvety green dipping sauce was a hit with everyone.

We did have a little bit of a wait between courses which served to build hunger levels back up again. When the various bowls and plates arrived with our mains, we knew it was worth the patience.

Our party ordered “TANTANMEN with sesame, chilli, pork mince, bok choy (Chicken Bone Broth)” and “DIPPING RAMEN with spring onion, kizami nori, chashu pork (Chicken Broth)”.

I was initially a little disappointed at not getting a one of the big ramen bowls, but my disappointment was dissipated upon tasting my dish. Oh my, my. A tiny little bowl of broth on the side packed an unctuous, umami punch right in the face. The chashu pork had lovely charred BBQ notes to it and dipped in the broth, with a helping of noodles topped with bamboo, spring onions and bean sprouts.

The dipping ramen.

The Tantanmen was ordered with extra mizuna and a pippette of fat – just for that little extra somethin’ somethin’. This beautiful bowl of comfort and pork had an almost coconut-ty taste to it, with all those deep savoury notes that come from really making stock.

The pipette of fat is off to the right there.

Here it is close-up.

The eggs – these must have been smoked, then soft boiled, and they were the embodiment of perfection. Those eggs absolutely rocked my world – and mine is a world where the best is saved to last and my last mouthful was one of those eggs.

Even discounting the fat pipette, the meals were just a touch greasy and the Tantanmen could have done with another handful of veg in there. The accompanying broth in the Dipping Ramen was increasingly salty, I really wanted to drink that thing up but it was just a little bit overpowering. But the point isn’t to drink it neat, hence the “dipping”.

To accompany our meals we went alcohol free – with a round of green tea and ginger beers. The soft drinks menu could have done with a couple more options, just for those of us trying to stay off the sauce in the run up to Christmas.

Drinks in order of “hardness”.

I have also forgotten to mention the condiments – to add whatever zazz you’d like to your dish there is the choice of toasted ground sesame seeds,  pickled garlic (you crush your very self at the table) and a garlicky-chilli oil that everyone at my table was tasting before the starters even arrived.

If you look closely, you can see the awesome sesame seed grinder.

Shiny, chilli goodness.

Self-crush that pickled garlic – grr!

Total bill came to just over £80 including service. We arrived at just after 6pm and the restaurant had plenty of free tables, by the time we left around 8pm the place was packed out. If you’re hungry at 6pm, get there early.

Overall, some seriously savoury treats and there is no doubt that this is an excellent joint to stop off and fuel up – being only a stone’s throw from Oxford Street, a perfect Christmas shopping pit stop. We give this place 7.5/10 and highly recommend a visit.

Ginger Pig restaurant in Hove

We spent the afternoon attending a whisky tasting at the Hilton on Brighton sea front as part of the food festival.

After such a hearty start to the day we decided at least a three course meal was required. One of our party had previously been to the Ginger Pig and recommended it – straight away we booked a table and polished off our whiskeys from the tasting. The Peat Monster from Compass Box Whiskey was my favourite new whiskey from the event, just as an aside.

We got our table for 6:30pm and kicked off with bread on the table and before long the starters had arrived and we knew we were in for a treat.

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I got started with the Crispy Polenta and mozzarella and a very tasty accompaniment of olives and anchovy. Suffice to say it didn’t stick around long. Highlights also were the duck heart salad and endives and the octopus carpaccio (the latter was unanimously the favourite starter of the group – we were all trying each other’s dishes).

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Main up next – I went from the specials board and ordered bream with pea gnocchi. It was lovely – I love to get seafood when near the sea, it just seems right, and they executed this one perfectly. The braised rabbit with chickpeas and chorizo from the specials was good, and the teriyaki mullet was also lovely (but not as good as the bream which was definitely a winner).

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Dessert, again off the specials board, was the chef’s take on a peanut butter sarnie. I think that’s all I need to say on that one.

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Total for 4 of us with a selection of drinks (beers, cocktails and coffees) came to £44 per person including drinks. Would definitely do the £6 taxi ride from Brighton centre to do dinner there again.