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L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon**, London [Restaurant Review]

Monday, 25 May 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

A friend had gone recently to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and declared it the best French food he had in London. Since he was a Frenchman himself, that seemed a pretty good recommendation. Also, Joel Robuchon’s is quite a famous name in the cooking world (especially on Iron Chef (the original Japanese episodes)) and this particular restaurant is the proud owner of two Michelin stars.

The restaurant itself is located in Central London, very near Soho. The entrance was quite promising, with a bouncer outside later in the night as it also has a bar section.


Inside, it was moodily dark with soft lighting, and the furniture was in keeping with its modern artistic style. We actually sat on the ground floor, it being the cheaper option (apparently, according to said Frenchman) compared to the more posh upstairs. There was a counter around the kitchen and about 6 tables to one side, we luckily had managed to get a table for the three of us. Actually we were surprised to get a table at all, as it was a Friday evening and we had only booked the table two hours before.





As mentioned earlier, the ground floor becomes a bar later in the evening, and there was quite an extensive cocktail list, but since we were having a French meal I felt red wine was more appropriate. The sommelier listened to my preferences (full bodied, rich, not too dry) and produced a Cornas that coincidentally I had bought a couple bottles of before in France. The wine list was also very detailed and there were some very expensive bottles on it; I spotted a couple of Grand Cuvees that were priced at £1000+ each.

Soon after the wine was poured, a little basket of bread arrived. There were three different types, the sourdough one being the nicest, partly as it was still nice and warm. The wholegrain bread was cool already, and felt a bit tough.


In addition to the normal a la carte menu, there was also a page of small tasting dishes, essentially tapas style for sharing. The waitress recommended two “starters” and one “main” each from the tasting dishes per person.

Firstly, my friend (a third wheel that night, it has to be said) chose his dishes from the al carte menu and had Foie gras ravioli in warm chicken broth, zesty whipped cream for his starter. The ravioli were disappointingly small (he and me being quite big eaters) and the foie gras was almost non-existent. The PigPig also felt the chicken broth felt a bit like chicken stock cubes.

Foie gras ravioli in warm chicken broth, zesty whipped cream

From the tasting side, we had a Carpaccio of beef with marinated pepper oil, chives and garlic crisp which I felt was quite good, but lacked a certain beefiness. The marinade was very nice though.

Carpaccio of beef with marinated pepper oil, chives and garlic crisp

The Egg cocotte topped with light wild mushroom cream would have been excellent if not for the extremely salty mushroom cream. According to Webster online dictionary, cocotte = prostitute. Not sure what kind of dish it was meant to be, but it felt a bit like chawanmushi to me. Could have been very nice if not for the excess salt.

Egg cocotte topped with light wild mushroom cream

Similarly, the Pig trotter served on parmesan toast was just too salty to be truly enjoyable. Also, the meat looked as if it was minced and as such, it was mushy and lacked any true texture which was a waste as trotters can be very nice with its high gelatine content. Please do note that I tend to prefer dishes quite salty and it’s quite unusual for me to complain about food being too salty.

Pig trotter served on parmesan toast

However, the previous mishaps were almost made up by the Hot foie gras with rhubarbs and pomegranate. Our friend was jealously eyeing this as he felt a bit cheated by his lack of fat content in chicken soup earlier. The foie gras was of good quality, very soft and lacking the strong liver taste associated with cheaper varieties. The rhubarb was very sweet and went quite well with the fatty foie gras.

Hot foie gras with rhubarbs and pomegranate

Still from the tasting dishes, I had the Lamb cutlets with fresh thyme. Previously, I had mentioned how Iberica’s baby lamb cutlets were brilliantly cooked in its purity, with naught but salt and pepper. This time, the French versions were to glaze the cutlets in a sweet marinade, also a simple but effective style. The meat had quite a bit of fat, which might turn some off (I quite enjoyed it, much to my future self’s cardiological despair).

Lamb cutlets with fresh thyme

The PigPig had Free range quail stuffed with foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes. This was a dish recommended by the Frenchman several PageUps earlier, and we were glad we listened to him. It also had a sweet glaze, which went oh so well with the quail meat and foie gras. Unfortunately, it was 1) tiny, 2) I ate the breast and left the leg to the PigPig, not knowing only the breast part had the foie gras.

Free range quail stuffed with foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes


Our friend had the Sirloin steak, which was truly the star of the dinner and once again confirmed my beliefs that the best cooked steak are French, despite what the Aussies and Argies may say. A waiter came out carrying a huge slab of sirloin, of which my friend can choose his desired thickness. Naturally, medium rare.


Black pepper, salt and Dijon mustard to be served with the steak

It arrived wonderfully pink on the inside, but lacking any blood oozing from it whatsoever (it can be a bit of a turnoff to some). Wonderfully tender, cooked with salt and pepper, it was a masterclass of a steak. Later we spoke to the waiter and discovered they rotate their source depending on the season (apparently, the grass in southwest France right now in mid-spring is sweeter, hence tonight’s steak hailed from that region) but mainly coming from France, Germany and Scotland.




The steak also came with some Roasted potatoes (nothing special) and (according to the waitress) Joel Robuchon’s special mashed potatoes. I personally felt she was just being a bit dramatic at the time but it was perhaps the best mash we ever had! It was as smooth as... sorry, words failed me, it was just very smooth. No surprise then, as the waitress later said that it was 50% butter, 50% potatoes, my poor coronaries; it didn’t stop us from finishing the little pot though.

Joel Robuchon’s special mashed potatoes

For desserts, we each chose one, starting with Araguani chocolate, white chocolate ice cream and Oreo cookie crumbs. The ice cream, sitting on top of a layer of light chocolate mousse, was more like mousse than ice cream, with little balls of chocolate crunches hiding underneath. Altogether nothing very fantastic.

Araguani chocolate, white chocolate ice cream and Oreo cookie crumbs


Choux pastry filled with Tahiti vanilla ice cream in an orange sauce sounded quite exotic to our ears. Again, the ice cream was more like mousse than real ice cream, and it was surprisingly not very cold for ice cream. The orange sauce was pretty good though, not tangy or bitter.

Choux pastry filled with Tahiti vanilla ice cream in an orange sauce

Passion fruit soufflé with Yuzu ice cream was very light and luffy with a surprisingly strong (in a nice way, and not sour either) passion fruit taste. The PigPig was complaining I ate too much of it, which shows how good it was. The Yuzu ice cream is Japanese in origin and it was “proper” ice cream this time.

Passion fruit soufflé with Yuzu ice cream

Altogether, for a bottle of wine (£32), 6 dishes from the tasting menu, a starter and main from the ala carte and 3 dessert dishes came up to a grand total of £240 or £80 each. Note that this is without coffee/tea or bottles of water but does include the optional 12.5% gratuity.

Food - 5.0
Service - 6.0
Atmosphere - 7.0
Value - 2.0

I think its worth noting here that ratings like this is utterly personal and may not reflect what other people may think, due to variations not only in personal tastes, choices and upbringing, but also the quality upon the day we visited. Also, while some may say that the food is overall of pretty good quality (quite true), perhaps my expectations from the two Michelin stars demanded much more from the food, which was essentially a bit tainted by a very liberal dosage of salt by the chefs. After dinner, we went to eat crepes so I think that speaks for itself the volume of food I had that night; i.e. it wasn’t enough for me.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
13-15 West Street,
Tel: +44(0)207 010 8600
Official website

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon on Urbanspoon

31 oink oinks...:

tigerfish said...

I thought the whipped cream was poached egg! Holy-ravioli!

Forager said...

Hmm - sounds a bit hit and miss then? The yuzu icecream does sound intriguing though!

burpandslurp said...

wow...everything looks really RICH and decadent...I'm sorry some weren't as good as the others...but really, what can go wrong with that much foie gras?

5 Star Foodie said...

Great review! Even though the dinner wasn't as perfect as it could have been, sounds like there were some nice highlights. I would love to try the souffle and the yuzu ice cream!

email2me said...

OMG! Look at that piece of steak! Juicy to the max!

Helene said...

This sounds like a terrific place to eat. I'd love to eat at a Joel restaurant.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a shame you didn't enjoy some of the dishes :( This post brings back some great memories of my visit there. The mash is amazing stuff isn't it although yes 50% butter and 50% potatoes would definitely help contribute to the creaminess lol

Elra said...

The food from the photographs looks delicious. I like that Alessi bowl that they used to serve the bread.

Happy cook said...

I didn't know he had a place in london. Here they show his cooking programme in france 3 every day and i watch sometimes when i have time.

The Caked Crusader said...

Thanks for giving us such an honest review

Christelle said...

Looks good but I see what you mean, not good if you are still hungry after tha :(

Núria said...

Yes, sometimes expectations go beyond what we get. I've gone through a similar experience more than once. Pictures look good though :D

lisaiscooking said...

Too bad some of the courses disappointed. The quail and truffled potatoes looks amazing though!

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

I've only had the set lunch and my lamb was so salty I had to mention it to the waitress. It completely ruined the meat. Shame you didn't like it. I wonder if I'll ever return for the tasting dishes, which I always thought would be fun.

Sara said...

Sorry you didn't love it. I went to the one in Vegas a few years ago, and we really enjoyed it!

Pam said...

At least the steak was delicious - it looked amazing!

Ninette said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting the phyllo wrapped asparagus. I love your blog name and your photos are so lovely!

doggybloggy said...

the steak looks heavenly!

Janet @Gourmet Traveller 88 said...

I was told years ago to try the one in Macau. I have made a booking for lunch last Dec but have to cancel due to going a martinee show. Surprised to hear that the food is a bit disappointing....

Reeni♥ said...

I'm sorry it was a disappointing experience. The steak does look really good, and crepes? How yummy!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

I've noticed at many pricey restaurants that salt seems to be an issue. I guess they feel that it's better to oversalt than undersalt...

I've been wonder if JR's restaurants were worth going to, but after seeing the Foie Gras and steak, I may have to give one of them a try.

Katherine Aucoin said...

Everything looks so elegant. What a wonderful meal you must have had.

Gattina said...

for me the two desserts sound & look superb!

Chef E said...

The whole meal sounds right up my alley! That soup is intriguing, and the steak set up is nice as well... I cannot eat meals like this often enough. Now I understand why Gordon Ramsey insists on black interwoven into restaurant design, because that building really stands out painted black on the street!

Wild Boar said...

Yeah that's a fair summary of dinner. Some good, others not so good.

Haha the ones with foie gras were good, but most of the others weren't. And you're right, it was actually quite rich overall. Still left a bit on the hungry side though.

5 Star Foodie:
Ooo the souffle was awesome!! The PigPig said she was slowly savouring it while I just wolfed it down.

Although the steak was quite rare, it wasn't oozing blood, but yeah still quite juicy :-D

Yeap it was quite exciting to eat there at the time, since Robuchon is such a big name.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:
Sounds you like enjoyed the food there better than I did. Personal tastes matters a lot in enjoying food methinks.

Happy cook:
I think he's all over the world including New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong too.

The Caked Crusader:
Hey, its not like they're paying me to say good things! I'm doing this so the people reading this blog can find good food to eat too.

Yeah I think if you enter a restaurant expecting great things, you may be building things up to a level that's unreasonable. Overhyped.

The quail was actually amazing, just too tiny :-( I could've stuffed the entire leg + breast into my mouth.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang:
Maybe I was building a bit of tolerance from the previous oversalted dishes? I found the lamb quite good with the sweet glaze though. But from your experience, it does sound like the restaurant is quite liberal with its salt usage.

I though it would be good to try the tasting dishes too since we wanted to try more options. But considering they were nearly the same price as the "normal" sized dishes (think they were only 20% cheaper on average), it wasn't good economic sense in retrospect.

I wouldn't be surprised if other people loved their experience at a Joel Robuchon restaurant since there must be a reason why he's so famous and has so many restaurants around the world. It just wasn't as nice as I hoped it'll be.

Janet @Gourmet Traveller 88:
Maybe you could speak to other people who ate at the Macau branch? Although they're the "same restaurant", but in reality the chefs would be slightly different.

Keep an eye out for the crepe review coming soon!

Marc @ NoRecipes:
That's such a shame though because you can always add some more salt to a dish if you feel like it. I would highly recommend the foie gras and steak, not so much the others though.

Chef E:
It also looks quite distinguished and posh doesn't it?

Girl Japan said...

You just must stop posting these- , I am eager to try their post place in Tokyo??? I heard? I could be wrong- I love Foie gras in general--

Girl Japan said...

I can not believe your man complained about you eating to much...or was he complaining that you were eating his half too? lol

Sam said...

Great review! It's a shame it wasn't quite as good as you had hoped, the steak looks really good though.

Wild Boar said...

Girl Japan:
No no you misunderstood. It was Ann the PigPig who complained I ate too much of her souffle. And yeah he has a branch in Tokyo.

genuiness said...

certainly a very very disappointing restaurant especially at 2*s. Just a bit on the steak itself - do you know what breed/ provenance the beef is from? ie which part of france?

p/s despite what the French think, the best beef comes from Japan ;)

p/p/s awesome blog, adding you to my blogroll

Wild Boar said...

Sorry for the delay in responding (which you might never know about actually). IIRC, the waiter just said it came from south west France but didn't elaborate further. I didn't follow it up since I didn't know much about cattle breeds anyway.

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