Oh the coveted Michelin Stars, and Joel Robuchon has 26 of them.
When I went to London in April, I was determined to have my first Michelin Star experience with my family. Peter from yumyumformytumtum had recommended Arbutus (1 Michelin) and I was eyeing Pollen Street Social (1 Michelin). After looking at some menus online, we eventually chose to have lunch at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (2 Michelin)!
I made reservations online on their website about 2 weeks before we left for London. After visiting Camden Market on a Sunday morning, we made our way there on the tube and got off at Leicester Square to walk over. It took us awhile but thankfully we spotted the 3 storey building on West Street before anyone got grumpy. Lucky that we had some street food at the market to line the stomachs too heh!
Going through that door is like going down the rabbit hole into a chic restaurant with underground vibes. The decor is primarily black and red, looking all sleek and contemporary. I think this theme is common for L’Ateliers over the world, having seen the ones in Singapore and Paris?
A long bar counter surrounding a open kitchen, high tables and a lush wall with ferns completes the ground floor. Lunch was already in full swing when we got seated; the atmosphere was light and casual, with soft laughter and conversation from a nearly full restaurant. Their higher end counter-part is housed on the first floor and their salon bar, Le Bar, at the terrace, both of which I did not visit.
Bar display of chocolate animals in celebration of Easter I believe!
We ordered from both set lunch and a la carte menus which was described as Modern French (can be viewed on their website). There are 2-4 course set lunch options and we chose to go with their 3 course menu (Amuse-bouche, 1 starter, 1 main course, 1 dessert) at 32 pounds. There are about 6 choices for each course here so I’ll say it is not bad variety- wise!
Complimentary bread and butter which was very normal and just slightly disappointing on a personal level as I was expecting better, perhaps some wholesome rolls, but not sliced loaves.
We had a amuse bouche of foie gras, port wine reduction and parmesan foam served layered in a shot glass. I regret to say that I did not take photos of it as I was distracted by the excitement that lunch is starting. The foie gras mousse was creamy and very strong in flavor, topped by a nearly negligible thin layer of port wine reduction that was somewhat lost between the mousse and airy parmesan foam.
My first starter, Warm Salad of White Asparagus with Nuts and ‘Iberian’ Ham, however, more than made up for the bread. The colors on the dish were fresh and glowing, with the help of a sticky honey-like glaze that caramelized the nuts. The inviting bright yellow of the yolk from a simple but well executed, satisfying quail egg. The white asparagus spears that were plump and juicy to the taste also had a hint of sweetness from the honey glaze. Combine it with a bite of the dark salty Iberian Ham laced with fatty flavors and you have got a piquant salad that left me wanting more.
Our other starter, Scottish Salmon Carpaccio seasoned with lemon juice and Espelette Chili was decent, albeit a small serving. I am loving the presentation of the dishes so far!
Our mains took some time to arrive, but I think that’s standard practice here, the time interval between each course is very long. We eventually had to tell them to serve desserts sooner because we wanted to head to Covent Garden after lunch! The Braised Pork Belly with mild spices and celeric mousseline is part of the set lunch option. Well, it was entirely different from what I envisioned, since I thought it would be a block of pork belly. Instead, under the crispy disc is a packed round ‘patty’ of tender well marinated pork shreds. Kind of like pulled pork? The flavors were on the salty side for the meat, but eat it with the light creamy mousseline (that strangely do not have much celery taste) and you get to mix it up a little.
We also had a Confit Shoulder of Lamb served with white beans with the set lunch. Another dish that is heavy on flavor, but this time mostly from the spiced white bean stew, which didn’t sit very well with me. The lamb however was a delight, soft and didn’t taste gamy at all.
I kind of regret not getting the roasted cod, which was another one of the set lunch options!
My sister wanted to try their steak, available on the a la carte menu and they go by weight at the restaurant. While waiting for our mains, a waiter brought out a huge slab of beef for us to see and asked ask how much in weight we want the steak to be. Pretty amusing. So we said 200g and he indicated with the knife roughly how thick it will be before going back to the kitchen to prepare.
The steak above eventually turned out to be 300g and costed us 11 pounds more BUT it was totally worth it because this is hands down the b.e.s.t piece of steak that I have ever had the fortune to eat. It arrived looking so bare on a plate but everything changed once you had your first taste. The succulent beef was bursting with beefy juices with every bite and it was very simply seasoned with sea salt and cracked black pepper, but I believe the right amount of beef fat/butter also contributed to making it so yummy! The meat was very slightly charred on the edges and remained medium rare to our order.There isn’t an accompanying sauce, and there isn’t a need for it, it was heavenly on its own. Everyone loved this, and agreed it was the smartest decision of the meal. So, beef lovers, you know what to(you must!!) order when you visit them!
Surprisingly, the potatoes that came along with the steak was also unbelievably good! Peeled golden brown baby potatoes in a small cast iron pot with lots of butter and a bunch of thyme. Those root veggies really soaked in the buttery goodness! Definitely sinful, and also completely worthy to be a accompanying side to the meat, we couldn’t get enough of it.
After the excellent steak, we were eagerly anticipating desserts. Tiramisu with Crunchy Praline and Amaretto Ice Cream came adorned with a gold leaf, the amaretto ice cream was sadly already melty when it arrived. Could not really taste the amaretto though. I enjoyed the crunchy praline cubes and the sponge in the tiramisu was adequately soaked with coffee but was not particularly impressed with anything.
William’s Pear Cream with ‘Nyangbo’ Chocolate and Pear Sorbet was slightly more interesting. The pear sorbet was very light and subtle and I would have liked more, compared to having way too much cream. The chocolate mousse is all the way at the bottom but when you reach it and eat it together with the cream the dessert feels more complete in a sense. Nyangbo chocolate is said to have a delicate bitter presence, which was a good match with the heavier cream.
All in all, I wouldn’t say it was an epic out-of-the-world experience. The food was decent, especially the steak, and service was helpful. I will remember it for being our first exposure to Michelin, of having a very nice lunch with my family in London in celebration of my sister’s birthday. I am grateful and extremely appreciative that I had the chance to bring and share with them this experience too. So thank you, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon London, and may we dine again in some other part of the world.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
13-15 West Street (Nearest tube stations: Leicester Square, Covent Garden)