My good friend Joe knew exactly what my fiancee, Simon, and I love. So for Simon’s birthday, he gave us dining experiences for two at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon from Truly, a luxury concierge platform that offers gift experiences for a selected high-end range of restaurants, spas, and city breaks. Thanks Joe!
I have been to L’Atelier many times before, but only to make use of the quiet tucked away cocktail bar upstairs. I would sink into one of the comfy fluffy sofa chairs to celebrate the end of a fun packed week with some friends. Sometimes, the bartender would even make a cocktail personalised for each guest, mine was a bubblegum vodka with white chocolate, it was incredible!
This was the first time I have returned to dine here. I knew that L’Atelier had two Michelin stars, but lost its second one in 2013, so I was interested to find out what kind of experience awaits me.
When we entered the restaurant, it was very dark with lowly-lit lights and surrounded by a combination of black and red colours along the counters and walls. Imagine as if you just stepped into a giant bento-box, in a good way.
There were high seats along the sleek countertop which overlooked into the open kitchen. Several young chefs were working away on decorating their ‘plates de resistance’ with sauces and delicate knife skills I would be squeamish about.
Clearly, the seated tables were a little bit too formal for just a casual lunch that we were after. We chose our seats at the far end corner of the black reflective counter to get the prime view into the kitchen, as you know, I like this kind of theatre! Masterchef Professionals style, my little guilty pleasure. 🙂
The lunch time tasting menu ranged from 2 to 4 courses with or/without matching wine, and were great value for a Michelin-starred restaurant at £31 to £64 (2 courses menus was not available on the weekend). Although, I was keen to try the food before deciding on whether this was truly great value.
I only opted for the three courses menu, as it was for lunch time and I needed to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon rather than having the usual post-food coma.
To freshen up, we were given an amuse bouche of foie gras mousse base topped with a slim line of port reduction and parmesan foam. The mousse had a silky smooth texture and finished the taste with a salty cheese and sweet port wine hit. Definitely woke up my palate with a loud bang. Now that’s a way to start lunch on a Saturday!
For the starter, I opted for the Japanese fusion dish of tiger prawn tsukune in a dashi broth and shiso. The broth was light on the tongue which brought back memories of trips to Japan eating the local fish ball soup. It was certainly a light starter and I was more envious of what Simon ordered…
He had the dandelion salad with a soft-boiled egg and smoked bacon. Don’t let the name deceive you, as it was much more substantial than a light salad. We watched the chef behind the kitchen gently place each dandelion salad leaf to form the perfect composition before topping it with smoked bacon and egg. Looked beautiful and tasted as good as it looked.
For the main, I ordered the braised beef cheek cannelloni with seasonal vegetables, in this case were field mushrooms and carrots. It was a little bit small for a main course, and with most main courses on the a la carte menu at around £30, I’m not sure this would be my recommendation, especially if you were hungry. The cooking was spot on however, as the beef cheek were tender and shredded within the cannelloni with a slight bite on the pasta surrounding the little parcel.
Simon always has a knack for picking out the top items on any menu. He didn’t disappoint in this instance either. For mains he had milk-fed pork saddle and cutlets with chorizo and salsify. The pork cutlets were wonderfully presented and he was generous enough to share part of it with me. One thing that L’Atelier always delivered was cooking without too much theatre but cooking the dishes well.
For dessert, once I saw poached pear on the menu, there was no turning back. Ever since I learned about how to do a perfect poached pear at L’Atelier des Chefs in Mayfair, I was always on the hunt for a restaurant that can do better. And look at this beautiful little pear when it appeared before me!
I present you the poached pear with spiced syrup and cinnamon biscuit. As Greg Wallace from Masterchef would say, “buttery biscuit base”!
I wondered what Simon had up his sleeve by this point. I think it was fair game in this instance as he ordered the choux pastry with light praline cream and caramelised hazelnuts.
You can’t go wrong with a choux pastry in a Michelin starred French restaurant. But this was a monster of a choux pastry, don’t let my camera deceive you.
I mean just look at this thing! Presented on a sleek black slate board, the choux pastry was stuffed to the max with praline cream. I guess this was the course of the meal where L’Atelier try to stuff its diners. And stuffed we were!
Overall, the quality of the food was superb and very well executed. However, these were standard dishes done very well, just lacking innovative ingredients and out of the box creativity. For a Michelin-starred restaurant, I would have expected more. But overall, I enjoyed the experience and especially browsing through an amazing wine selection for my wine pairings.
Have you tried L’Atelier in other cities? I’m especially interested to hear more about Hong Kong’s local branch as I’m heading there in a few weeks! 🙂
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
13-15 West Street, London WC2H 9NE