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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Return Visit to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Words & Photography by Matthew Brown and Luiz Hara

Name: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Where: 13-15 West Street, London WC2H 9NE, United Kingdom,

Cost: We sampled dishes from several of the restaurant’s menus. A La Carte starters range from £17 to £49. Main courses are more consistent, and vary from £34-49, while desserts are all £11. The restaurant also offers 5- and 8-course tasting menus, priced at £95 and £129, and each can be extended to include either a “Sommelier’s Choice” or a “French” wine pairing. As well as set lunch and pre-theatre menus (2 courses for £31, 4 for £41) there’s an additional menu of small tasting dishes (from £16-29) that features some of the restaurant’s most innovative items.

The wine list is extensive, and though the top bottles are stratospheric, there is a good choice of bottles under £40. There is an extensive spirits selection, and a strong cocktail list (£11-15) that is also available in the restaurant’s biggest secret, its cosy penthouse bar.

About: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon is the London outpost of a superstar chef with restaurants all over the world, from Bangkok to Bordeaux and Las Vegas to Tokyo. Robuchon was named ‘Chef of the Century’ in 1989 and his ingredient-led cuisine shows great attention to detail. The London restaurant is led by Head Chef Xavier Boyer who has worked with Robuchon for 13 years, and shares his determination to reinvent classic French cooking.

Open plan kitchen by Chef's Table at L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

This restaurant opened in 2006, in a striking black townhouse on Covent Garden’s West Street. Inside, the emphasis is on glamour. The downstairs dining room offers bar seating around a sleek open kitchen.  As if this didn’t provide enough drama, there’s also a vertical garden on the back wall and irresistibly good lighting throughout. The second floor dining room is larger and has a more conventional arrangement of tables, but the drama returns in the third floor bar which features a roof terrace, a modernist fireplace and deep red leather armchairs.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is one of my favourite ‘splurge’ restaurants in London, I wrote about it in The London Foodie previously, see earlier review here.

What We Ate: We began with an amuse bouche of foie gras, port wine and parmesan foam that was rich and well-executed and set the tone for the dishes that followed, all of which used indulgent ingredients with impressive finesse.

For our first course, we had a well-presented dish of fresh crabmeat, served in crisp ravioli of pressed turnip with a sweet and sour sauce.

It was followed by poached egg with Comte cheese cream, from the tasting ‘Découverte’ menu. Served on a rich black truffle coulis, the egg was poached to creamy perfection.

Next, we had poached turbot in a Champagne sauce, from the Gout de France menu, served with cockles, clams and shiitake mushrooms and a superb spiced Champagne foam.

For the main course, we had wagyu beef. The quality of the marbled wagyu was excellent - crispy on the outside and rare but firm inside.

We enjoyed it with soy spinach and Robuchon's famously buttery pomme purée (see earlier review here).

Dessert was a cylinder of crystalised sugar that contained layers of milk chocolate mousse, lemon cream and ginger ice cream. The sugar cylinder offered much more than presentation - along with the caramelized hazelnuts it gave a contrasting crunch to the soft layers inside.

What We Drank: Veuve Clicquot is the restaurant’s house champagne, always a good sign, and our meal began with those familiar, fizzy brioche notes.

Our first pairing was a 2013 Godeval Godello Valdeorras from Spain. High in acidity, its crisp lemon notes were a great accompaniment to the crabmeat and pressed radish.

The next glass, like the truffle dish it accompanied, was more powerful. A 2012 Riesling from the famous Schloss Johannisberg,  was light in body but with high enough minerality to stand up to the unctuous truffle.

Our third white was a 2011 Terlan Pinot Bianco ‘Vorberg’. Aged in oak casks, it had a delicious weight of apricot fruit flavours and great length.

The red wine was a 2009 Bodegas Resalte from Ribera del Duero. With  blackberry and spice notes, it was an excellent partner for the wagyu beef. 

With dessert we had a 2011 Luigi Bosca ‘Granos Nobles’ Gewürztraminer, a rich, sweet wine from Argentina, with a plenty of acidity to keep it from being cloying.

We ended the evening with two cocktails in the third floor bar and lounge. The first, a Smoked Brooklyn, a variation on a Manhattan, was a more aromatic version of that classic drink. The second, featuring my favourite Japanese citrus fruit, was the Yuzu Pisco - fresh, pretty and delicious.

Likes: the crabmeat ravioli were excellent but Robuchon's buttery pomme purée is what got me to return!

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon offers a truly unique experience – their Japanese inspired French cooking is light yet elegant and full of flavour. Their wine selection is second to none, and the ambience is glamorous, dark and soothing. Highly recommended.

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