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L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon** (Menu Decouverte)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

We had covered this place before but essentially the summary of that review is:
  • Has the name of Joel Robuchon behind it
  • 2 Michelin stars
  • We tried the ala carte menu and was generally disappointed
I wasn’t particularly keen to eat here again but 1) we were here tonight for the tasting menu and my friends had a good experience with it and 2) it wasn’t my choice anyway. Our table of 8 were seated in the L’Atelier section (ground floor, trendy looking counter around the chef’s cooking area, some slightly uncomfortable seats and tables on the sides) instead of the La Cuisine section (more traditional restaurant section) as the latter was closed that day.

We all had the tasting menu and some of us also had the matching wines as well for an extra £40. For an extra £80, one can get the Prestige matching wines instead (from what I can tell, Prestige means more of the wines come from France). Being a lightweight, the PigPig and I shared the matching wines. Also, I’m by no means an expert on wine, so bear with me in my descriptions below.

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“Royale” of foie gras, port reduction and parmesan foam”. The first course listed on the menu was an amuse-bouche. It had a layer of foie gras mousse at the bottom followed by a thin but strong tasting layer of tart port and topped by the slightly salty cheese. I thought the whole combination of flavours was really good but it was quite a rich start, albeit a fitting introduction for the rest of the meal. Perhaps the only criticism of this was the lack of a textural element.

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No matching wine for this course.

Caviar served on a bed of crab meat and lobster jelly”.

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Similar to above, this course was essentially a pile of mushy stuff but on this occasion I honestly didn’t care about the lack of a crunchy bit simply because it tasted so good. The briny saltiness of the caviar really meshed well with the sweetness of the crab while the lobster added even more richness. One of the few times I took my time to really enjoy something.

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‘O Rosal’, Terra Gauda, Riad Baixas, Spain, 2008”. The sharpness of the wine contrasted quite well with the rich caviar and helped to clear the palate.

Green asparagus cappuccino, cream chives and golden croutons”. Another rich creamy course, the soup was fairly well seasoned but lacked any real sparkle for me. The chives didn’t really make an effect as well while I felt the croutons were a bit on the chewy side.

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Feherburgundi, Weninger, Sopron, Hungary, 2007”. This was actually a really drinkable white wine which had a nice balance of dryness and sweetness with a fruity tone.

Caramelised scallop served with kumquat emulsion”. I was really disappointed by this course. Although the scallop was expertly cooked to leave the middle slightly raw, it didn’t have any of the natural scallop sweetness. I think grilling the scallop would have been better too. The kumquat sauce also was a bit too sour for my liking.

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Ovilos Biblia Chora, Pangeon, Greece, 2008”. If I recall correctly, I didn’t like this much as I thought it was a too oaky.

Seared duck foie gras served with white peaches and hazelnuts”. A pretty good quality albeit small piece of foie gras, this soft delectable fatty slice was cooked well and the sweet glaze was great too. As always, a sweet fruity component works well with the rich meat while the nuts added both flavour and crunchy texture.

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Brumiere, Pacherenc, South West France, 2007”. A sweet wine but not as intense as a muscat or port, probably more similar in sweetness levels to an eiswein. I liked it, even though I’m no big fan of dessert wines in general, while the PigPig naturally loved it.

Pan fried fillet of red mullet, pissaladiere and sauce vierge”. The delicately flavoured fish wasn’t paired particularly well with the slightly bitter olive paste on the light pastry crust under the fish for me. Nobody in our table was particularly impressed by this dish.

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Cotes du Luberon Rose “Tradition” Chateau Val Joanis, Rhone Valley, France, 2008”. Honestly can’t remember much about this wine now, but I think it was fairly pleasing to drink.

Free range quail stuffed with foie gras and truffle mashed potatoes”. Now the last time we ate, we ordered this dish from the ala carte section and I ate the thigh part, leaving the drumstick bit for the PigPig not knowing that only the thigh had the foie gras stuffing; she wasn’t pleased then, especially when I told her how great it was. It was just as good this time as well with the quail merely being a vehicle to carry forward the taste of the sweetish glaze and the foie gras inside.

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The mash had a very generous shaving of truffles over it as well as mixed into it although I don’t think it really added much to an already awesome mash. As I mentioned in the previous review, we were told the mash had pretty much only two ingredients – butter and potato – and it really shows as it was an incredibly rich and creamy. We were all well pleased that we were given some extra mash potato on the side as well.

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“Vendimia Seleccionada” Bodega Resalte, Ribera Del Duero, Spain, 2007”. Err, I think this was alright as well.

Now after all the savoury dishes were doled out, we were offered a chance to go and enjoy our desserts up on the terrace. Seeing as it was a rather nice summer’s evening we decided to take up their offer although the cynical me was wondering if it was because they wanted the table for the next seating.

Francois’s duo of desserts”. The first bit was a blood orange sorbet with a white chocolate coating (yes I’m aware it’s orange coloured). I’ve never had a sorbet popsicle before, much less paired with chocolate, but it actually turned out pretty well and the chocolate was a good match with the slightly bitter yet sweet sorbet. We were told that there were pop rocks inside but it must’ve fizzled out because we didn’t detect any.

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The second dessert was a chocolate mousse with white chocolate ice cream topped with what I think was oreo shavings. All in all pretty nice without being overly sweet or rich and the addition of little balls of chocolate (like mini Maltesers) at the bottom added some nice crunch. The Pigpig didn't like the chocolate mousse as it was served at room temperature - not her kind of dessert.

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At this point we were offered tea or coffee. I chose the latter and received a great strong cup which I thoroughly enjoyed then but then didn’t manage to sleep till 3am. My other companions had either mint or jasmine tea and seemed fairly happy as well. We were waiting for the petit four to come out but they never materialized!

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Altogether, the bill came up to about £1300 for the 8 of us having tasting menus and 3 people having additional wine pairings as well as a few bottles of still water which worked out to be about £160 each (we just split the bill 8 ways even though not everyone had wine). The Pigpig found the wine portions quite small. Service was prompt and efficient and the waiters were quite enthusiastic in their job and explaining the dishes to us.

Food – 7.5
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 4.0
Value – 5.0

Out of all the degustations we’ve been to so far this is probably the most underwhelming of them all. Although some courses were really good, a couple were quite disappointing. Considering the name behind the restaurant and the two Michelin stars, we expected a little bit more than what we received.

Best bit: the caviarrrrrr.
Worst bit: the missing petit four =(
Extra bit: while sitting out on the terrace eating a popsicle is nice, there’s no beating the Waterside Inn’s conservatory for having coffee, petit four and just generally relaxing with friends after a big heavy dinner.

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

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon on Urbanspoon

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