l’atelier de joel robuchon, london wc2

i’ve wanted to eat at l’atelier de joel robuchon for while but only managed to get round to it last week. this was actually good timing, as it won a second michelin star earlier in the month and joel robuchon was in attendance on the day. he’s also been in the media recently, proclaiming that restaurants are going to need to simplify their food if they are to survive the credit crunch and that having the kitchen on show to the punters is better for both chef and diner.

anyway, enough media hoo-ha, on to the food! i went for lunch with my friend clare and, sitting in the ground floor atelier (all black and red decor with low lighting, an open kitchen in the middle), we decided to mix and match the tapas and a la carte menus (there is also an excellent value lunch menu - £19 for 2 courses).

we started with a platter of iberian ham which was served with little pieces of toast topped with finely chopped tomatoes. the ham was absolutely out of this world – rich, sweet and packed full of flavour (including, i thought, a hint of orange).

this was followed by our other two tapas dishes - a salad of sautéed squid, thinly sliced and fried baby artichokes, chorizo and rocket. apparently this was dressed with tomato water. i don’t remember that but did love the meltingly tender squid and its companion ingredients. we also had langoustine ravioli which were served on top of savoy cabbage and topped with black truffle. these were amazing – tender langoustine which truly tasted of the sea and balanced well with the rich seafood reduction that coated the pasta.

for a main course clare had wonderfully tender flaking pieces of red mullet with provencal vegetables and i chose veal sweetbreads with asparagus, baby potatoes and a foie gras reduction. i was irritated at the use of asparagus, given it’s not in season, but the dish itself tasted wonderful. as did the little pot of mr robuchon’s infamous mashed potato. apparently this involves a ratio of potato:butter of 4:1. the result is silky smooth and it was like eating softened butter with a hint of spud. we only managed a spoonful each.

which was a good decision as it meant we had space for pudding. le mont blanc for clare (which i can’t remember in detail but it involved chestnut puree/ice cream and mini meringues) and my le white. this was a fascinating concoction – rings of piped meringue sandwiched with avocado and banana creams, filled with a lime and vodka (i think) sorbet and finished with a warm banana sauce. i admit i chose it out of curiosity and was thankful that the flavours worked well but i think that was largely to do with the avocado’s subtlety and the sweetness of the meringue/banana.

so, 3 courses, a couple of glasses of wine each and coffee resulted in a bill just shy of £180 including service. not cheap but very nice. if i return i will try the lunch menu or, if someone else is paying, focus on sharing more of the tasting plates.

l'atelier de joel robuchon

13-15 west street, london wc2h 9ne

t - 0207 010 8600

w - www.joel-robuchon.com