L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, London
As London’s restaurant scene has increasingly taken a turn for the hip, the more high precision cooking synonymous with Michelin-star dining has recently assumed something of a back seat in the public consciousness.
But the appetite for such establishments undoubtedly remains and, in the eyes of many, continues to represent the high water mark of gastronomic creativity.
While exposed brickwork and wine served in jam jars may be de rigueur in certain parts of Soho, food as art is still the preserve of chefs such Joel Robuchon, whose London outpost we visited with great anticipation.
The owner of a world-beating collection of Michelin stars, the eponymous French chef has gained renown as something of a culinary naturalist, ensuring every ingredient tastes of itself. While some reputations fall down on closer evidence, on this occasion it stood firm and proud.
Seated in the ground floor restaurant, resplendent with red and black lacquer and red leather bar stools facing directly into the kitchen, our decadent 8-course Tasting Menu got off to an impressive start with a stunning amuse bouche of foie gras under a port reduction and hot froth.
Things continued along the same vein with a dish of Sologne Imperial caviar on a symphony of salmon tartar, the latter oozing freshness and expertly cooked. The Japanese-theme lingered with a marinated black cod served on a daikon and yuzu mousseline, the tender and moist fish paired brilliantly with the daikon purée.
Remaining highlights included the finest course of the meal – free range quail stuffed with foie gras and mashed potato. The richness of the foie gras combined with the light gamey quail and sweet caramelised surface to produce a truly world class dish.
After such an avalanche of intense flavours, desserts were pared down to attractive but simple (by the standards that preceded them) palette cleansers: a dainty lime mousse, crumble and granite cachaça being the stand-out offering.
Wines were well matched throughout the meal, while service was refreshingly casual for high-end dining and the décor quirky and eye-catching. But for all of its frills, you visit L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon for one reason only: to be served unapologetically brilliant, beautiful food.