L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Covent Garden, London
It’s time to get a little starry-eyed. Michelin starry-eyed. I’ve done over half a year in London now, and it’s a good point to start checking off some Michelin-starred establishments. First on the list was L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden. The location was handy for the Harry Potter play after and the efficient pre-theatre option made sure we were there with ample time.
Celebrity French chef Joël Robuchon has thirteen restaurants at last count, with the London one open since 2006. It doesn’t show its age through. The excitement starts as soon as you take your kitchen-side seats. The menu was prix fixe (£45) for three courses. My brother and I enjoyed some dazzling dishes, all immaculately presented.
The courses were plenty, although the eight course degustation was also reasonably priced and looked just as successful. The guy next to us went for that and we only had mild food envy. If you’d like an upmarket night out with a fine display of cooking wizardry, do check out L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
The evening begins with a warm welcome, and most of the seating has a fantastic view of the kitchen. Open and on show. The black and red interior are reminiscent of a bento box, but the the use of foliage and vertical gardens prevents it ever feeling suffocating. Almost Japanese but the menu is decidedly French. There are bread baskets and amuse bouches arrive to whet your appetite.
Things were off to a fantastic start and my enthusiasm for the bread evidently showed, with the waitress offering a top up. Bread is a reliable litmus test for any restaurant. My starter was the poached egg with chanterelles, sherry and wild garlic. It’s an electric mix of ingredients in a surprising plate of colours that embody those bold flavours. Does it even look like an egg to you? Yum.
My brother also went for the vegetarian option with the aubergine caviar, goats cheese and fresh basil served in mille feuilles layers. I loved the presentation with the mini-garden of sorts. This referenced the faux garden we sat opposite over the course of our stay. I had only a small smackerel of a sample and enjoyed the creamy piping encased in the wafer like pastry. A most fine savoury take on a favourite classic French dessert. Clever and tasty.
Mains weren’t too far away, and in fact the pace at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is perfect. Granted, we were early evening dining so that may have kept the kitchen more relaxed than later in the night. My fellow diner went for the halibut with vegetables and a butter and lemon-thyme sauce.
I went for the Iberian tenderloin. This has a chorizo crust, confit vegetables and piquillo juices. Iberian tenderloin is similar to the loin, darker in colour and with a special fine aroma that comes from being located between the shoulder and the loin. I’m not sure if I was the biggest fan of this particular cut, but I could appreciate what was in front of me. It’s another impeccably presented dish, with colour and vibrance in every inch. The crust is delectable and everything on the plate is presented with care. Ivan went for the fish.
Part three was the desserts. And we did a bit of a switcheroo as we ended up preferring the other’s choice. My preferred (but not the one I ordered) was the lemon cheesecake with limoncello and Greek yoghurt sorbet. It has the right level of creamy and zesty flavours which made it a perfect conclusion for our meal. The dabs of raspberry and limoncello prevent the flavours from ever tasting monotone. There’s a good level of sour, with little crust.
My ordered (but less preferred) dessert was the Manjari chocolate mousse with dark chocolate sorbet and Oreo cookies. The presentation is curious but I felt it was a bit too rich for my palate. The chocolate tastes of quality of course, and my brother was more than happy to finish it off for me. Not sure I fully understood what the eating suggestion was meant to be here.
And that’s it. Well, we also had some mini-madelines and mini-tarts too. I enjoyed my time at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon a hell of a lot. The £45 menu is super reasonable and every dish was visually arresting. A bonus was the efficient service, so we didn’t have to panic about making it over to the theatre. As good as Heston with better lighting.