Lunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon


Lunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon (pictured above, on the right, with his sommelier Ivo Stoyanov) now has a dozen restaurants in nine cities across the world. Together they boast a total of 25 Michelin stars, which is pretty impressive. I guess this makes Robuchon, who wears his 64 years very well, the world’s top chef, if that title is a meaningful one.

Whatever you think about the world of the celebrity chefs and the garlanding of stars from the Guide Michelin, this sort of status means that a chance to eat at his London restaurant, with Robuchon himself in attendance, is one to be seized. The lunch was organized by Bordeaux Château owner Bernard Magrez.

Magrez (above, with his PR Clem de Crecy standing next to him) has been teaming up with Robuchon in a series of dinners to showcase a vertical tasting of Château Pape Clément, his top property (Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux). I’ve written up the Pape Clément vertical elsewhere; here I wanted to report on the food.

The London restaurant has two separate dining rooms. The first, L’Atelier (top), is an exotic ground floor dining room, with dark, rather far-eastern-style decor and an extended counter area, where most of the diners sit. This eating counter surrounds the kitchen, so you enjoy a rather interactive experience watching your food being prepared. If you don’t fancy sitting at the counter but want to stare into the eyes of your loved one, then there are another 20 seats à deux.

Then upstairs, there’s a more traditional, formal dining room (La Cuisine), which nonetheless retains the open kitchen arrangement. This is beautifully laid out, with more elegant but still contemporary style. This is where we dined.

We began with some Jamon Iberico de Bellota, which was fantastic. Then, the first seated course was caviar in coral jelly, over a base of crab meat. It was sweet, textured and beautifully flavoured, with a slight salty tang providing balance to the sweet crab meat.

Next course was superbly presented: curly slices of foie gras on a bed of truffle-marinated potato, topped with shavings of truffle and a bit of salad. This was really nicely textured but the flavours weren’t as intense as I would have expected. Delicious, still.

A bit of genius here: perfectly cooked sea bass with an asian-style topping of leeks, ginger and spiced honey. Nicely balanced flavours – intense, but not overpowering. Not sure about the lemon grass used merely as a decoration, though. I don’t like food items on my plate that aren’t designed to be eaten. It seems wasteful.

Simple perfection for the meat course. Lamb from the Pyrenees, where the new season lambs are ready a bit earlier, with a bit of fresh thyme, and a splurge of the famous Robuchon mashed potato (not shown). Beautifully prepared and presented, and delicious.

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