Words cannot describe how excited we were to visit L’Atelier de Joel Rubuchon. We’d put on proper shoes, strapped ourselves in to our big girl pants and made a pact not to swear for at least two hours, or at least not loudly. For a brief while, we were going to be Ladies.
The restaurant is beautiful. It’s intimate and low-lit, and there’s a whole wall of living greenery. There are conventional tables and a bar looking into the kitchen, which we were sat it. It isn’t the best set-up for conversation as you constantly having to turn to each other, so I wouldn’t recommend the bar for especially romantic occasions where gazing dreamily into each others’ eyes is the first order of business, but you do get a fantastic view of the chefs pursuing their craft in the kitchen. We were fascinated. A row of miniature Le Crueset pots sat on a counter, waiting to be filled, no doubt, with something stewed and delicious. In the corner a lady with forearms like a Russian shotputter industriously creamed an enormous pan of mashed potato, and barely six feet away two men wearing poofy white hats and identical expressions of intense concentration wove between each other to put together two complicated-looking dishes involving – I shit you not – tweezers.
On to the food then; the place does have a Michelin star, after all. We were having a surprise tasting menu, which, frankly, is the most exciting thing I can possibly imagine. We were up for literally everything so we were practically quivering in anticipation. (Everything, that is, except fois gras, which can always go and do one. It makes me sad that restaurants keep supporting that shit.)
Well, of course it was wonderful. We had dish after dish of incredibly crafted, sublime food. It was like porn, but in my mouth. The tasteful kind. We started with a tangy but delicate gazpacho in glass crockery that made me swoon:
Followed by black cod with an edible tempura leaf:
…And an incredibly rich lobster dumpling with, er, lobster:
And then there was the poached egg. My God, it was the stuff of dreams. Carla and I have pretty much built an entire friendship on a mutual love of eggs, but this was something else. They were actually the dishes the tweezer men were assembling when we first sat down (!):
That, fellow oueuf-lovers, is a soft poached egg in crispy rice batter, served with sour cream, salmon and a thick slug of Imperial caviar sitting proudly atop it.
Imagine. The dish is only available on the a la carte menu (i.e. not on the excellent value pre- and post-theatre menus) at an eye-watering £49, which I think we’ll all agree is pretty steep, no matter how perfect.
But I feel fucking privileged to have tried it. My God.
Apart from the egg, my favourite dish was the ox cheek, which I’ve loved since I first tried it at Hawksmoor Bar in Spitalfields. Initially the idea made me a bit squeamish, but now animal face is always a top contender on any menu. Ox cheek is soft and velvety, like beefy pulled pork, and this one was as rich as butter and served with a red wine reduction.
It came served with a bowl of mashed potato whipped into oblivion. It was storybook mash, and probably the best I’ve ever tasted, no doubt (sadly) because it was probably 70% butter and 20% cream.
We were already getting full, but we had room for a little amuse-bouche before dessert. (And, incidentally, isn’t that such a lovely concept? Literally ‘mouth amuser’, it is something not ordered but served up by the chef to cleanse the palette before the next course. Magnifique.)
And then they brought out this monster:
I was so enraptured by it I may as well have given birth to it myself. It’s a lemon bubble that they blow – apparently – just like glass. Dig in with a spoon and it shatters satisfyingly, oozing yoghurt ice cream flecked with gold. Sort of like a lemony version of Bob Bob Ricard’s chocolate bomb.
The service was exemplary. Everything we tried was complemented by wines from the most adorable sommelier, who appeared at our elbows with his little bunch of grapes badge glinting in the candlelight, and the wait staff were also wonderfully attentive. The whole experience is pretty magical, but when £49 eggs are on the menu it’s certainly one kept for a special occasion. That said, they do have a set menu during the week, which at £36/three courses (or £41/four), comes in pretty reasonably for a double Michelin-starred restaurant.
I was asked to visit L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon on invitation from their press team, but – as ever – my opinions are 100% legit. The restaurant can be found at 13-15 West Street, WC2H 9NE, not far from Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden tube stations. Menus and reservation details can be found on their website.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.