French chef Joël Robuchon is a legend in the world of French cuisine. He brought the finest of French cooking to diners across the world, with restaurants in Bangkok, Hong Kong, London, Bordeaux, Tokyo and New York City, to name a few. He strove for such perfection that he was crowned “Chef of the Century” in 1989 by the French restaurant guide Gault & Millau, and in 2016 he held 31 Michelin Stars across his restaurants, the most any restaurateur had ever held. He sadly passed away in 2018, but the Robuchon name now holds 32. The original L’Atelier in Covent Garden closed its two-Michelin-Starred site just nine months after Robuchon passed away, and this is a reopening of sorts – but now replacing the more casual Le Comptoir Robuchon at the same Mayfair address.
L’Atelier Robuchon is an elegant twist on the previous space. The existing large Art Deco light fittings still command attention, but they are now enveloped in a sophisticated deep red colour scheme that offsets the white marble bar. Positioned near the entrance, the up-lit drinks area really beckons you to pull up a chair and consider the cocktail list – because you will surely be treated to something glamourous. The dining hall offers comfortable plush fabric booth seating, or you can take a seat at the kitchen counter and watch the chefs work their magic. It’s clear every detail has been considered – from the lighting to the tableware, everything is on the money. There is nothing stuffy about it, while still feeling refined.
The L’Atelier concept offers a wonderful introduction to Robuchon’s legacy. It has three principles that must run through everything – excellence, simplicity and consistency. Overseeing the menu is Italian-born head chef Andrea Cofini. He is no stranger to the Robuchon standard, having previously headed up Robuchon Shanghai and the sister L’Atelier in Paris. He has continued to merge classic French gastronomy with Japanese and Spanish influences to create innovative, interesting flavours throughout.
To start, the Les Champignons (crunchy rice with egg yolk, aged Comté, ham and wild mushrooms) is a joyous combination of textures and savoury flavours – it doesn’t hurt that it arrives artfully presented either, a delicate feast for the eyes. Brummell followed this with Le Black Cod (caramelised black cod, Malabar pepper sauce and coconut milk foam), which was a real triumph of tastes, designed as a ‘yin-yang’ of dark pepper sauce meeting light, sweet coconut foam around a piece of perfectly soft fish.
The Le Boeuf offers a more classic option – peppered filet of beef, with an expertly constructed tower of crunchy mille-feuille potatoes. Yes, imagine the sweet treat but in potato form. Magnifique.
Speaking of potatoes, no review would be complete without a mention of the famous Robuchon mashed potatoes. The purée de pomme de terre has been described as the best mashed potato in the world. A ratio of 2/3 butter to 1/3 potato is part of the secret. Let’s just say, there was a moment of silence when this hit our palate.
To finish, vanilla four ways offers some unexpected combinations, while the La Figue is a plate of rich roasted figs topped with spiced red wine jelly and mascarpone foam that looks and tastes suitably autumnal.
Another great, cosy pick features on the cocktail menu. While the wine list is extensive, the cocktail offering features a pared-back cast all inspired by places in France. The La Bretangne is a warm, sweet, spiced drink of Beurre noisette, Seven Tails XO brandy, Breton cider, chestnut, cardamom and apple that comes in a mug for added feel-good factor. Clutching a steaming cup of this between your hands certainly helps to forget the grey weather that probably awaits outside.
For a flavour you may never have tried before, the La Martinique is a combination of Agricole rum, lapsang souchong tea, kuromitsu (a Japanese sugar syrup) and orange – a great drink to nurse while enjoying the restaurant’s vibrant atmosphere.
L’Atelier Robuchon is a versatile option – a solid choice for grabbing a drink at the bar with a date or friend and later moving on to the kitchen bar for a more casual dinner, or for a larger group, the tables would suit a special family dinner or even notable work celebration.
Dinner for two with cocktails, £220