My sister L and I can be very different individuals on so many levels but the one thing we sure have in common is seeking out restaurants at our travel destinations and making advance table reservations before departing for our travel. As she is trying hard to secure a table at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant for her upcoming trip to London, it reminds me of my own gastronomy moments when T and I were in London. We did not make it to Blumenthal's Fat Duck but will be keeping that, and his new restaurant Dinner, for our next trip out there.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was the best dining experience that happened to T and I on that trip to London. Voted Best Chef of the 20th Century, Joel Robuchon also holds the most Michelin stars in the world across his restaurants. He pursues perfection in his restaurants and cuisine and his restaurant L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is another reflection of his culinary confidence. Right from the service to the execution of the food, this restaurant deserves its 2-Michelin stars. The servers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu and the French cuisine had an exquisite flair without any pompousness.
Unlike what one would come to expect of bar seatings in general, i.e. where you get to see the bartender and mixologist at work, the bar seating at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon offered an experience on a different level. We sat on stools at the high top counter that enabled us to observe and participate in the action going on in the kitchen which included the kitchen crew preparing and plating the appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The bar counter seats a reasonable number of people although it seemed like only parties no larger than two people were seated there, presumably for reasons of easy communication between larger parties. Any parties of three or more were seated at tables in the dining room although I don't imagine they would not try to accommodate requests to be seated at the kitchen bar.
One of the impressively presented items was the baked clams with minced garlic and mushrooms. The clams were served on a thick bed of sea salt and whole red peppercorns.
One of the signature dishes is the La Langoustine, perfectly fried until crispy and served with basil pesto.
The Les Spaghetti was entirely on a class of its own and it truly stood out for me. It was so much more than just spaghetti. Prepared Atelier-style, the dish came with sea urchin. I am a big fan of uni (sea urchin in Japanese) at sushi restaurants and while sea urchins are commonly found on sushi menus, they are not commonly found at non-sushi restaurants. Admittedly, sea urchin may be a matter of one's own personal taste and may not be widely appreciated in western cuisine. Always served in sashimi or nigiri-style at sushi restaurants, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon took the wise risk of introducing it with spaghetti and it worked beautifully. The sea urchin was used to make the creamy sauce and there were also bite-size pieces of sea urchin hidden in the sauce.
Another memorable dish was the octopus salad. The octopus was tender and delicate; the texture was smooth, almost like medium rare. The perfectly seared duck liver pate came in a generous portion that was rich enough to be shared but even if anyone wanted it all for him or herself, who could blame him or her? It was fantastic.
For dessert we shared the Rum Baba which was absolutely divine. The sponge cake was soaked with rum and the liquor taste shone through pretty strong. The rum-saturated cake came with a thin piece of yellow meringue shaped into a star and also accompanied with sorbet. Several types of alcoholic coffee drinks were offered on the dessert menu with descriptions on the country of origins of the coffee.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in this London location delivered and matched expectations for being a 2-Michelin stars recipient. We would be very interested in experiencing the other L'Ateliers in other parts of the world for a basis of comparison but this is for sure: the London location deserves the recognition it has.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
13-15 West Street
Covent Garden, London
2011 2-Michelin Stars
2010 2-Michelin Stars
2009 2-Michelin Stars
1989 Best Chef of the 20th Century by Gault Millau