Saturday, 13 November 2010

Restaurant Gauthier, in London...

...was included recently in the Wall Street Journal's list of the top ten places to eat in Europe. It's in Romilly Street in Soho, in the building which was Lindsay House for such a long time (somewhere I recall as falling significantly short of its PR positioning, frankly...the food was definitely 'OK', rather than anything special). Anyway....Gauthier. Technical Department and I were discussing the WSJ listing in the car the other evening, as we drove up to Brancoli, for dinner and to return their lawnmower which we'd borrowed when ours broke, back in August. TD, who had read the WSJ article ( I hadn't) was of the opinion that the Gauthier menu included far too much mackerel for his liking, and that the overall tone of the place seemed to be as a place of worship rather than somewhere just to go and have dinner. (We grew out of the food-as-a-form-of-worship thing many decades ago, and these days, great food should be good enough to cause a short pause in good conversation, but should then act merely as an adjunct to it, and not take over.)

So, it was with interest that we heard that the Brancolis had dined at Gauthier a couple of weeks ago, and had been served rather more protein than advertised in the menu. In the form of two dead beetles (one each....clearly, it was an equal opportunity slip-up) in the base of their wine glasses. They were working their way through the tasting menu, item four (or so) of which was some kind of venison, accompanied by a southern rhône. And a couple of beetles. Both very dead. The sommelier and waiters gathered round and gazed in silence at the offending corpses, leaking redly onto the tablecloth, before efficiently removing them, and then carrying on as though nothing had happened. To the extent that they made no mention of the incident even as they presented the eye-wateringly large bill at the end of the evening. The Brancolis were probably more stunned by the lack of reaction than they had been by the event itself. ..so much so, that they were out in the street before they'd thought to raise the matter (although, equally, since it was a celebration dinner, neither was keen to cause a scene). No apology was forthcoming, no offer of recompense (money off? a bottle of something? an invitation to come back as guests on another occasion?....forget it!). Incredible.

The only explanation we could come up with for the bizarre lack of reaction was that the business model for a restaurant like Gauthier must be that dining there is expected to be a one-off event, and that they don't think their clientele will become regulars (and so they don't need to bother). Which is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, if you think about it. I know of at least two diners who won't ever be going back! But then, I can also think of two others who won't now consider it even for the one-off option...so, possibly the business model is flawed. Pause for thought, Monsieur Gauthier.

Tonight's Dinner

Ravioli, stuffed with bietole and ricotta.

Sautéed Chicken Breast, in a Rosemary & Lemon Sauce; Courgettes, with Thyme.

Bakewell and Black Plum Tarts.

8 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

That is appalling behaviour on the part of the waiting staff. I doubt that would happen in Italy?

Pomiane said...

I think in general you're correct, and it wouldn't happen in Italy - but then, I wouldn't think it would generally happen in the UK either. Which is why it was quite so astonishing...

Anonymous said...

no, please, in France we have learnt something fundamental: the customer is always wrong. It's a matter of principle.

Pomiane said...

I may be out of date on matters French, but surely in France they would at least make sure that the customer knew that they were wrong, and wouldn't just leave them to draw their own conclusions under a veil of silence? I had thought the French took a more proactive approach in expressing disdain...but possibly I'm still stuck in the twentieth century

Anonymous said...

No, expressing disdain is still prevalent here. But perhaps, there is now a European version, a melange of all relevant cultures. So in this particular instance the customer is wrong, (French), but let's not create a fuss, stiff upper lip and all that, (English). What could be more democratic?

Pomiane said...

Have a care! You risk Brussels deciding to lay down an EU standard...and who knows where that would leave us!

Anonymous said...

Brussel sprouts with bugs! Read it whichever way.

Pomiane said...

As long as the bugs are dead, then that takes us neatly right back to Monsieur Gauthier..