Although I love exploring vegan cuisine worldwide, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than seeing the vegan community thrive in my hometown of London.
One particular chef who has done a lot for veganism in London is Alexis Gauthier. His fine dining restaurant Gauthier has been on quite the journey. I ate there at the beginning of 2020 when they still served meat. The vegan menu was okay, nothing life-changing.
A year later he made the gutsy move of changing Gauthier into a fully plant-based fine dining restaurant. I decided to give it another try and the food was exceptional.
Since then the Gauthier brand has been growing, with a new fast-casual vegan sushi bar (123v)*, a vegan bakery (serving delicious vegan croissants) and now his Studio Gauthier establishment. Alexis Gauthier promised all of the delicious fine dining food that you have come to expect from their team at Gauthier Soho, but in a more relaxed approachable setting.
So I rallied up my Mum and Sister to try their full tasting menu on a busy Friday evening. Continue reading to find out whether vegan fine dining really is possible in a relaxed setting.
*As of January 2024 123V has moved to the BFI building where his bakery and Studio Gauthier establishments reside.
What is Studio Gauthier?
Studio Gauthier is the chic, more relaxed little sister of Gauthier Soho. It is a fully vegan restaurant situated in the BFI building off Tottenham Court Road. It is run by Alexis Gauthier, a vegan fine dining chef, who was previously awarded a Michelin star in 2011 for his food at Gauthier Soho (many years before it went vegan).
The idea of the restaurant was to create a more informal setting for people to come and enjoy his fine dining food. The chefs wear t-shirts and diners can rock up wearing jeans and trainers.
- Location: BFI Building, 21 Stephen St, London W1T 1LN
- Cost: £65 pp for the tasting menu (excluding drinks and service)
- Dress code: Business casual
- Allergens: All allergies are catered for, you need to call them in advance
The menus at Studio Gauthier
There are a few different menus available at Studio Gauthier. During the day the space is used primarily for their 123V establishment which offers pastries, sandwiches, salads and a whole lotta sushi. This carries on into the evening and is offered to diners as their a la carte menu. Studio Gauthier then also opens up into the same space offering a tasting menu alongside a smaller sushi menu.
- 6-course tasting menu
- Sushi menu
- A la carte menu
Diners can choose from any of the menus, but to be able to enjoy the tasting menu everyone at the table must order it. You can’t switch between menus.
I arrived at Studio Gauthier at 6 pm on a Friday with my Mum and Sister. We were some of the first in the restaurant, but it quickly built up. This meant we were able to experience a bustling service at this new vegan restaurant. I am going to cover my experience with the food, drinks, service and the ambience.
The food at Studio Gauthier fortunately did not disappoint. Our tasting menu started with some seasonal canapes, one of which was topped with a wonderfully umami-flavoured vegan caviar. This was the perfect way to start the meal.
Not long after this came my favourite dish of the night – brioche feuillette, which is like a cross between brioche and a croissant, served with a creamy green dip made from lovage, kale and citrus yoghurt. It was divine and I could see myself eating this every weekend for the rest of my life.
The next course was something a little different, a vegan sushi course. I’ve never had sushi on a fine dining menu in Europe before, but I’d like to see it more often, please! Their sushi was well-balanced and packed full of flavour. It was also very refreshing, which was perfect since the next course was a rich truffle pasta dish. The cheesy cream sauce inside the tortellini was what dreams are made of.
The main course that arrived next was the letdown of the meal. To be fair to them, the larger ‘main’ dishes in most tasting menus tend to fall flat. It gave me ‘Sunday lunch in a pub’ vibes. The vegan bacon made it taste like well, vegan bacon. Something that I cook at home for Sunday breakfast.
When the dessert arrived, my heart sank a little. I was looking forward to this dish, and we were waiting quite some time for it to arrive so anticipation was pretty high, but what was presented to me was a square of chocolate in the middle of a huge plate. It looked sad and rather lonely. Thankfully, it tasted divine. The chocolate shell was the perfect thickness and complimented the orange insert beautifully. It was like an adult Jaffa Cake.
Overall, I have to say that the food was up to their usual standard. If you ignore their main ‘crispy potato’ course. A hearty winter vegetable or juicy mushroom could have done a much better job there.
They had a great selection of wine, beer and spirits, and their drinks pairing for the tasting menu was certainly enticing. But after a rather boozy (and very fun) drinks pairing experience at Gauthier Soho a while back, which left us with major hangovers, we decided to choose a bottle of wine to share instead. It is January after all.
The bottle of wine was perfect for the meal. But we were left to top ourselves up throughout the evening (more on the service below). I’ve had some great natural wines at Gauthier Soho before and was expecting to see some on the Studio Gauthier menu but sadly there weren’t any. Hopefully next time!
I looked over their alcohol-free selection which left a lot to be desired. I would have hoped for some alcohol-free beers and ciders. Instead, there was a choice of soft drinks and a kombucha that is more soft drink than kombucha.
If by relaxed setting they mean more casual service then they’ve got that spot on. Well, maybe a little too much so. The service was rather lacklustre. It gave off more McDonald’s vibes than it did high-end dining. Plates were dropped in front of us, we were regularly forgotten about, and the staff lacked any real enthusiasm about the food.
As the restaurant packed up with bottomless sushi diners the service just got worse. They were very busy serving up plates of sushi to hungry diners, and our tasting menu was forgotten about.
It is worth mentioning though that restaurants are struggling to hire good front of house staff, especially since Brexit. What with Studio Gauthier also being quite new, these are potentially just teething issues. Fingers crossed for the latter.
Because of all the sushi flying out of the kitchen, the restaurant felt more like a fast food joint than a fine dining space. I am fully behind their goal to create a more relaxed setting for everyone to enjoy, especially when you look at how stuffy Gauthier Soho can come across to the more inexperienced diners, but this just felt confusing.
Is it a bottomless sushi joint or is it a fine dining experience? I don’t believe it can be both. Especially not when one service interrupts the flow of the other.
The bottomless sushi was drawing in a crowd. This is awesome to see for a fully vegan establishment. But this did mean there were large crowds of people around the restaurant, big groups of diners, all of whom were enjoying drinks and mounds of sushi. This created a very loud buzz, too loud for enjoying a tasting menu. But then maybe I’m just not ready for the informal high-end dining experience!
Has Alexis Gauthier been successful in his mission to curate a fine dining experience in a more relaxed, chic setting? In my opinion, no. If I wanted fine dining food I would still choose to visit his Gauthier Soho restaurant where the service and ambience are more fitting for the dining experience.
Studio Gauthier felt more like a fast food sushi joint than a fine dining restaurant. I would love to revisit and join in on the bottomless sushi fun, I just hope no one is there that evening trying to eat their way through a tasting menu.
If they offered a dedicated evening for the tasting menu, without any bottomless sushi, then they’d be that bit closer to succeeding. Particularly since the food was spot on and the restaurant space had a great feel to it.
Hopefully, over time they’ll be able to hire some more experienced wait staff who can bring a touch of je ne sais quoi to the service, whilst bringing the cheeriness needed to make this a relaxed informal setting. In fact, I know there are a few members of staff working at Gauthier Soho who would fit the bill!