L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
13-15 West Street
London WC2H 9NE
Tel. 020 7010 8600
Food type: French
Food rating: 5/10
Nearest tube: Leicester Square
Website: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
(Editor’s note: In the 2009 Michelin Guide, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon was upgraded to 2 Michelin Star status)
Having had a weekend to recover from the Christmas feast (and all the hard work cooking) it was time for me to get out of my house and meet some of my old school friends. My restaurant of choice was Joël Robuchon’s outlet in London which I have been wanting to try for quite some time now. Conveniently they run an affordable lunch menu priced at £19 for 2 courses or £25 for 3 courses.
It was not long ago in 1996 when Robuchon claimed to have ‘retired’. Retired from cooking maybe, but he certainly couldn’t keep his mitts off the restaurateur business and soon enough, he opened restaurant after restaurant around the globe bearing his infamous name. One would think that with numerous ‘chains’, the standard of cooking would be inconsistent yet Robuchon’s restaurants have been consistently praised for consistent, high quality food. If the greatness of a chef is measured on the basis of Michelin stars, Robuchon would easily win hands down. With his ever expanding empire of restaurants, he has amassed no fewer than 23 Michelin stars (5 of these stars were recently gained with the recent release of the Hong Kong/ Macao guide). Not that Robuchon agrees. He has been one of the most vocal critics of the guide. More tellingly, he was also awarded the title of ‘Chef of the Century’ in 1989 by Gault Millau, a rival guide which is also happens to be one of the most influential French restaurant guide.
The first of the L’Atelier chain of restaurants was opened in Tokyo in 2003. The word ‘L’Atelier’ literally translates into ‘workshop’ and is perhaps the theme of the restaurant. The restaurant itself draws on Robuchon’s love for the Japanese culture. It is an open-plan kitchen where diners sit around the bar and can observe the kitchen at work, much like a sushi bar. The red and black colour scheme also bears a strange similarity to an over-sized bento box.
The London branch of L’Atelier is spans three floors – the aforementioned sushi-like bar, a more formal restaurant upstairs (La Cuisine) as well as a bar. Conveniently, there is a lift to transport you up and down if you don’t fancy working off any of the calories you ingested.