Another post, another restaurant, and this one has been visited by myself more than one time, for various occasion and I’ll give you my feeling later in the post.
We don’t have to present the master chef Joel Robuchon, most starred chef in the world with currently 28 stars on his own all over the world. He used to run the Relais du Parc in Paris on Avenue Raymond Poincaré. This has been some of the most brilliant rising years of the master chef. I do remember back in the days, the restaurant was like an icon and was very exquisite. Rumours went long and Joel Robuchon started to put his print over Paris by reaching 3 stars in this first restaurant (followed just after by the discrete and nevertheless famous Alain Ducasse). Then Robuchon became the most respected chef in the world and been elected to Best Chef of the Century by Gault & Millault in 1990. I had the chance to go many times to his first London address in Covent Garden.
First of all, I’ve to make a comment about the concept. When you arrive at the Atelier in London, you will feel like if you get into an industry of food and chic. Mister Robuchon literally invaded a full well situated mansion-house in the heart of Soho/Covent Garden area. Perfect location and amazing building. Funny though, the address must be hundred meters from the Ivy – the very hype and famous London old tavern – which can be understood as a French incitement. One ground floor with the Atelier, the 1st floor with the Cuisine and then the roof with the bar. But is there any competition?! I’m not too sure. The restaurant is currently driven by Olivier Limousin.
Barely arrived in the lobby, you feel the vibe of a high standard “food empire”. You notice the Japanese bar kitchen from the Atelier on the back of the main entrance, and then you’re directed to the lift to enjoy one of the most fantastic bar experience. Roof floor, a very cosy and charming bar, quite dark.
There I would recommend the Apple Martini which is at the image of the Chef i.e. a stunning revolution. When you see the cocktail arriving, you suddenly realise that you’re not just in a simple bar, but in one of the best address in the world. The Apple Martini is presented as a “declinaison” (eng = declination) of Apple, in 3 acts. A wonderful champagne glass with the Apple Martini, some dry apple slices and then a crunchy of Eau de Vie de Pommes. (fr = granite a l’eau de vie de pomme). And then obviously the waiter explains that you have to proceed in order, starting by a piece of dry apple, then a spoon of crunchy ice, then finally the Martini. Full sensation here, the full on Apple “bomb” is impressive, bursting out all your senses. Sounds like eating a piece of Apple sorbet stuffed with Eau de Vie. Wicked, tasty, very refreshing, and certainly very hype.
Then from the various times I went to the Atelier/La Cuisine, I would recollect 2 main creations.
One was a starter called crab-meat in tomato jelly and avocado. I’ve to say, I was seriously not expecting that. From the description on the menu, what would you imagine? some Jelly cubes maybe from each flavour? The piece of art arrives served in a half-cut egg look-like pottery, Japanese style, dropped on a dark slate. Very modern, very chic, simple. Then at the first bite, you understand the whole concept.
Three layers of pure creativity. First layer of pure crab meat, fresh and tasty. Second layer of tomato jelly, just spiced with “piment d’espelete”, enough to enlighten the crab. Then the wonderful avocado jelly, soft green and slightly pop up with some horseradish (fr : raifort) and little acid from lemon. This combination of three, beyond making as well a sumptuous colour match (green, pink and red), was just an ace in term of simplicity and a remarkable refreshing starter. One point to mention as well, when I say jelly, don’t be scared of having a very firm sensation on the mouth. Not at all, the texture is more like a dessert jelly or a cream (like a “danette” dessert cream) but this time it’s not vanilla or pistachio, but a far more better mix starter….enjoy
The second course which spotted my attention is uncommonly a dessert. Indeed, you may have noticed that my attraction is focusing more on salty courses than sweets. But I think I’m generally never influenced by sweet things in general. It’s generally always the same thing, ……CHOCOLATE.
I’ve to confess, I’m not a fan of chocolate. For a dessert I would seriously prefer the flavour of an almond tart, or the freshness of a fruit mousse. I found usually chocolate nice, but quite repetitive and sometime very boring. From restaurant to restaurant you always find the Chocolate fondant or the chocolate mousse…again and again. But in this case I was drawn by the name of one on the list i.e. Dome Croquant. Firstly the waiter arrives with a soup plate. A simple mushroom shape made of a massive meringue coloured with real gold, with on top two crazy decorations imitating the shape of two snakes unlaced. Then below the body made of home-made strawberry sorbet (of course). I always knew at this point that I’ll be pleased. I love sorbet (more than ice cream) and I was clearly anticipating the perfect merger with chocolate. But where is the chocolate?? ….Then suddenly the waiter come back and literally flush a serious amount of Viennoi Chocolate on the meringue, hot and very creamy. All of a sudden, the incredible happens, the meringue (made of sugar) obviously melt down into floating pieces or in a mixture of white egg. The sorbet previously invisible starts to appear on the centre of a dark chocolate ocean. Don’t need to tell you how the chocolate dating the strawberry can be!!!….it is just unbelievable. As well as the mix of hot and cold at same time which is just spot on. I licked the spoon till the last drop….and I have to confess, I’ve almost hesitated to lick the plate as well….but Vincent…come on….you’re at the Cuisine from Robuchon…..you can’t do that. It’s not CHIC. ;o0
But I would like to make a statement here. After testing the Cuisine more than just one time, I’ve to say despite of the food being really exceptional, I can’t say the same about the service. The head waiter (maitre d’hotel) is really not very friendly. And the atmosphere is very noisy as well, and this is not what you expect from a 2 stars Michelin restaurant. And having discuss about this with many acquaintances, it sounds like this is a generic comment about the place. I would still recommend it, but not for romantic diner, it’s NOT AT ALL a romantic place. For this reason I still wonder why the place has gained the second star in 2009. Maybe some French withstand from Michelin guide!!L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon http://www.joel-robuchon.com 13-15 West Street London WC2H 9NE, United Kingdom 020 7010 8600