Comptoir Robuchon opened in November 2019 in Mayfair. The Robuchon restaurant empire previously had a London outpost in the form of one of the global chain of Atelier Robuchons. These have similar décor and menus around the world, this one based in Covent Garden for many years before it closed in April 2019. The executive chef of Comptoir Robuchon, a new brand in the Robuchon stable, is Jeremy Page, who grew up in the south west of France and trained at Michelin-starred Hotel du Palais in Biarritz. He went on to work for the late lamented Joel Robuchon for several years in Paris at Atelier Robuchon in St Germain before heading up the kitchens of Atelier Robuchon in London.
The dining room is quite different in style from the distinctive Atelier livery. This is a single long room with banquette seating on one side and bar counter seating on the other. Behind the counter the chefs can be seen working. The lengthy menu had a lot of options, with sharing plates for starters and main courses, additional dishes as well as a tasting menu at £95 and a set lunch at £39 for three courses.
The wine list was extensive, and although there are lots of French wines, there was also a good selection from Italy, Spain, Germany and beyond. Examples were Willi Schaefer Estate Riesling 2014 at £55 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £24, Foradori Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco Vigneti delle Dolomiti 2018 at £79 compared to its retail price of £20, and Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2000 at £145 for a label that will set you back £73 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 1999 was £606 compared to its retail price of £406, and Vega Sicilia Unico 2009 was £610 for a wine that has a current market value of £335.
Bread is made in the kitchen, with several choices including sourdough. Pig trotter with tarragon mustard came on a crisp base and a little green salad with a sharp dressing that usefully cut through the richness of the meat. This was a rich but nicely balanced dish, the proportion of mustard being carefully judged so as to enliven the dish without overpowering it (15/20).
Shellfish gelee was very prettily presented as a circular shape dotted with neatly piped cauliflower and chlorophyll puree, with a central ring of oscietra caviar. The gelee is made from lobster jelly, the centre removed and filled with king crab topped with a disc of caviar. This is a classic Robuchon dish, attractive to look at and carefully constructed, the brininess of the caviar working well with the sweetness of the crab, the gentle earthiness of cauliflower contrasting with the delicate lobster jelly (18/20).
Quail with foie gras and herb salad was cooked quite lightly, the quail having nice flavour, with the richness of the liver balanced by the salad. This was not a particularly pretty dish to look at, and for a main course it was not very large in size, but it was executed well enough (15/20). It was accompanied by some of the buttery mashed potatoes that ironically is the dish that Joel Robuchon, named “chef of the century” by Gault Millau in 1989, is most famous for. Robuchon preferred ratte potatoes but the member of staff that I asked was coy as to the potato variety used in the version today.
Puttanesca (“whore’s pasta”) made with spaghettini is a dish from Naples that became popular in the 1960s. The story goes that one evening Sandro Petti, co-owner of a restaurant called Rancio Fellone, was asked to make a late night dish that could be quickly made and consumed by some of his female clients in between their engagements. It is spaghetti with a sauce of anchovies, capers, olives, garlic and tomatoes. The rendition here was fine, the pasta having good texture, but for me could have been a little hotter when it arrived. For such a simple dish to stand out it needs really special ingredients, as you find at top restaurants in Italy like Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan, where simple pasta dishes are transformed into things of beauty. Here the dish was perfectly decent but unremarkable (14/20).
For dessert, an apple tatin with caramel and ginger had no pastry base, just cylinders of pressed apple. This was very pleasant, the ginger flavour nicely lifting the flavour of the apple and caramel (15/20). Rum baba was very good, the bread base entirely avoiding dryness, the rum ceremonially poured at the table, the Chantilly cream good. This is a simple dish but one that is very easy to get wrong (17/20). Coffee was from Union, which is a reasonably good coffee supplier, and came with petit fours of yuzu tartlet and a chocolate bonbon with pecan nut praline.
Service was slick, the staff friendly and knowledgeable. The bill came to £76 per person with just water to drink. If you ordered a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might come to around £90 per head. Overall, Le Comptoir Robuchon seemed to me quite similar to The Atelier Robuchon other than the change of décor. As always with this restaurant group, the food was appealing and well executed. It is not cheap, but then you are in Mayfair.