Atelier Robuchon opened in Mayfair in September 2023. from behind of the stoves of the legendary Jamin in Paris, where he earned three Michelin stars within three years of its opening in 1981 (this restaurant relocated to Avenue Raymond Poincare under the name Joel Robuchon in 1994). I was lucky enough to eat at Jamin and later Joel Robuchon initially in 1986, and subsequently at these venues twice a year until Mr Robuchon retired from cooking himself in 1995 at the age of 50. Joel Robuchon was declared “chef of the century” by Gault Millault in 1989, and for once this ambitious accolade seems appropriate. Jamin was the restaurant that really got me interested in fine dining, and over my visits here I experienced sublime dish after sublime dish. I have eaten individual dishes elsewhere that were every bit as good as at Jamin, but I have not encountered a restaurant that delivered such stunning consistency through the meal at service after service, from the exquisite savoury dishes to the dazzling desserts and the perfect country bread loaf that they used to give you as a parting gift at the end of the meal.
Following the closure of his flagship restaurant on his early retirement, Mr Robuchon opened the first Atelier Robuchon in 2003. It is a chain if you will, but a very up-market one. A flurry of Atelier Robuchons followed, from Tokyo (the first one to open) to Paris to Hong Kong to Shanghai and beyond. You can find them now from Switzerland to Dubai, from Miami to Madrid. There used to be one in West Street in London, but this closed in 2019. Robuchon was famously a perfectionist, with his recipes defined down to the gram, so his cooking is actually quite well suited to be rolled out into a chain, albeit a high-end one. Here you can sample his famous mash potatoes, or his signature “Le Caviar Imperial” dish, a disc of caviar surrounded with dots of cauliflower cream. The head chef here tonight was Fabio Fasano, who will soon hand over to Qassim Bouhassoun. In overall charge of the Atelier Robuchon group these days (since September 2019) is executive chef is David Alves. He previously spent five years in charge of the Atelier Hong Kong and before that almost four years at the Paris Etoile Atelier, with seven further years at other Robuchon restaurants. The dining room in London is elegant, with a long bar to one side of the room.
There was a three-course lunch option at £55, a tasting menu at £190 and a full a la carte selection. From the a la carte there was quite a range of prices, with starters £16 - £85, main courses £29-85 and desserts £13-£15, with a plate of cheese at £17. The wine pairing with the tasting menu was priced at £96. The wine list itself was not on-line so I was unable to do a full analysis. Unsurprisingly it was largely French, though there was a more than respectable selection of labels from elsewhere. Sample bottles were Clos Pons Costers del Segre 2021 at £45 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £20, Domaine de l’Austral Les Amandiers Saumur Blanc 2019 at £70 compared to its retail price of £22, and Domaine Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg 2017 at £139 for a wine that will set you back £56 in the shops. At the posh end of the list you could drink Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo Brunello di Montalcino 2015 at £635 compared to its retail price of £178, or Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial Release 2015 at £729 compared to its current shop price of £420. There were a few relative bargains on the wine list at the more rarefied levels, in particular the superb Coche Dury Meursault 2006 was £750 compared to its current market price of £1,466.
An amuse-bouche began the meal, cep royale with artichoke coulis, shiitake mushrooms and artichoke crisps. This was very well made, the blend of textures working well and the ceps of good quality (16/20). The bread selection was quite something to see, beautifully presented and really well made. There was a fabulous fougasse bread flavoured with bacon, lard and mustard seeds, a fine squid ink brioche, lovely salted brioche, a classic baguette and a superb Comte cheese mini baguette. This was really high-class bread, as good as any that you will encounter in London.
Caviar Imperial is a classic Robuchon dish. At the centre was a disc of oscietra caviar from supplier Reach Food, covering a disc of king crab and surrounded by a ring of delicate lobster jelly dotted with drops of cauliflower cream. I counted just 54 blobs of cauliflower cream compared to the 72 that the original recipe specifies, but I won’t hold that against the kitchen. The dish is stunning to look at, and in flavour terms the lobster jelly richness is nicely balanced by the gently earthy taste of the cauliflower, the sweetness of the crab complemented by the salinity of the caviar (easily 18/20). Cheese souffle used aged Comte cheese and came with a black truffle sauce. This was a really classy dish, the souffle superbly executed and the truffle fragrance working very well with the quite strong flavour of the Comte (a high 18/20).
Quail was from France rather than the UK, and was carefully cooked. It was served with some micro-leaf salad and a little of the Robuchon mash, but for me could have benefitted from a little more sauce than the small amount of cooking juices that appeared. This was certainly a good dish nonetheless, and was of a similar standard to the same dish that I have eaten elsewhere in the same restaurant group (16/20). Dover sole was very carefully cooked, though there are perhaps limits to what can be done with this enjoyable but ultimately quite simple dish (15/20). On the side we had excellent buttered spinach and good broccoli, and of course the fabulous mash Robuchon mash potatoes. The latter’s creamy and butter texture is due to the mash having implausible proportions of butter to Ratte potato (1 unit weight of butter to 2 of potato). The potatoes are boiled with their skin on, then peeled and run through a food mill, with cubes of butter then stirred into the hot potatoes. The result is heavenly.
Rhubarb and citrus souffle was evenly cooked and was light and fluffy. Perhaps it could have risen a little more, and for me a touch more citrus sharpness would have been even better, but this was still a very good dish (16/20). Baked Alaska was flavoured with orange and almond, flambeed with Grand Marnier. This was enjoyable, though the ice cream perhaps could have benefitted from a touch more vanilla flavour (15/20). For some reason a particularly ordinary industrial coffee called Segafredo is served here, and I skipped this. We were brought a trio of petit fours anyway, including a good chocolate and a surprisingly ordinary and slightly dry apple pate de fruit that needed more fruit flavour. Quite why high-end restaurants choose to serve cheap industrial coffee is beyond me; they would never dream of serving dredged scallops or low-grade meat, yet coffee all too often seems an afterthought.
The bill came to £237 per person for three courses with a nice but not excessive bottle of wine, the Vina Tondonia 2009 Reserva at £125 (which retails at £42). If you ordered a more modest wine to share then a typical cost per person might come to £155, though it would be easy to spend more here, but also a bit less if you went for the three-course lunch option. The staff were charming, looking after us very well and answering all my questions patiently. Atelier Robuchon produces a style of food that is quite hard to find in London now: classical French, with no wacky ingredient combinations that show off how clever the chef is but may not be pleasing to the customer. Instead, here you get dishes that most people actually want to eat. Some elements of this meal, in particular the starters and the bread, were really top-drawer. This was a very sophisticated and well-executed meal, in a smart setting and with lovely staff. It isn’t cheap, but you can pay a lot more for something much worse in London these days. I am really pleased to see Atelier Robuchon return to London, and will happily come back to try some of the other dishes.