Apologies for the quiet time on the blog and on Twitter too. Things have been very busy here in the Su-Lin and Blai household and we’ve been spending a lot of time meeting friends and family who are in town.
To celebrate my birthday, I’d wanted to try L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon but as we were down with stomach bugs that weekend, I postponed the meal until the following weekend. I was definitely nervous as the last time I visited a restaurant tied to a well known name, the results weren’t impressive (I’m looking at you, Jean-Georges Vongerichten!). We arrived the following Sunday with a view to order from the set lunch menu (2 starters, 2 mains, dessert or cheese to choose from – £19 for two courses and £25 for three) but we ended up mixing and matching dishes from that and the a la carte menu. Here’s what we had:
LA FREGOLA SARDA
en salade acidulée aux herbes fraîches
This was from the set lunch menu and we chose it over the cold melon soup with goat’s cheese. The toasty flavoured fregola was combined with citrus fruits, pinenuts, and various herbs and was a lovely fresh start to the meal. It was quite a generously portioned salad too.
cocotte à la crème légère de champignons des sous-bois
Egg cocotte topped with light wild mushroom cream
From the a la carte menu, we ordered this egg dish which arrived in a martini glass. From bottom to top, the layers were a parsley puree, the soft cooked egg, mushrooms and a mushroom cream. We were instructed to stick our spoons through all the layers and eat it all together but we found this difficult due to the shape of the glass and the hugeness of the spoons we were given. While it was good, this was the least impressive of all the dishes that day.
farcie de foie gras et caramélisée avec une pomme purée truffée
Free range quail stuffed with foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes
Also from the a la carte menu was this doll’s house treat. It really was this small; here’s half a quail (only the breast was stuffed with foie gras) served with a spoonful of truffle mashed potatoes. I think at this price, it wouldn’t hurt them to give us the whole quail (the dish was £19) and perhaps a larger dollop of the divine mashed potato too – yes, this was Robuchon’s famous extra buttery mash but with little bits of black truffle throughout and shavings of truffle on top.
en goujonettes avec son bouquet de salade et sa sauce noisette
Plaice goujons with hazelnut sauce and salad
Back to the set lunch menu. Blai chose the fish option. A very generous portion of plaice goujons were piled alongside a bowlful of dressed salad. The goujons were coated in breadcrumbs and sesame seeds and were not at all greasy for something so deep fried! However, I think we expected something more in this dish though it was difficult to fault it.
En tartare et pommes de terre grenaille
Steak tartar with baby potatoes
Again from the set lunch menu, I chose the steak tartar. Unlike other places (Racine comes to mind – review soon!), the accompaniments were not separate from the meat but instead everything was already mixed together and mounded on the plate next to a number of baby potatoes. I quite liked the proportions of the seasonings in the mixture, with hints of sharp mustard coming through. However, it was the potatoes that really shone through in this main course – I believe they were cooked as fondant potatoes and were gorgeous (I must make this!).
LE DESSERT DU JOUR
Jasmine tea creme brulee with raspberry sorbet and fresh sliced apricots
Our first dessert came from the set lunch menu and was the dessert of the day. We loved this – it was a lovely mixture of fresh and creamy. The creme brulee was well scented with jasmine tea (sometimes I find the flavour’s not strong enough) and the sorbet and apricots lent that freshness to the palate. This was the kind of dessert I expected of L’Atelier.
sélection de tartes de tradition
Selection of traditional tarts
Our second dessert came from the a la carte menu. This was good, well executed, but not very exciting. I had originally thought that it would be more of a play on the classic tarts but not so – just slices of the traditional tarts. From top to bottom, they are slices of a raspberry tart, a cinnamon custard tart, strawberry tart (on a biscuit base), a chocolate toffee and nut tart (described to us as like a Snickers tart!), and a lemon tart.
The meal came to just under £100 (we ordered a bottle of sparkling water and a glass of their house red wine, a Syrah) and despite the itty bitty size of the quail dish, we left quite full. Actually, if we’d each ordered only the three courses off the set lunch menu, it would only have been £25 each for the food and it would be enough but I’m greedy and like trying things. The ground floor dining room has counter seating along one side and then a number of small high tables for 2-4 people. We were sat at the counter where I spent much time gazing at the chefs doing their work (how amusing to watch caviar being arranged with two toothpicks!) and I’d definitely recommend sitting there if you’re to visit for the first time. We’ve discussed going for a table next time for a more romantic lunch or dinner because, you know, we’d definitely like to return one day!
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
15 West St
London WC2H 9NE