L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon – 13 – 15 West Street, London

June 2, 2007


After a period living in Paris, where Guy Savoy’s little place La Butte Chaillot became our local canteen, it’s fair to say that we’ve always been looking for a replacement. After lunch on a rainy Saturday at Joel Robuchon, I think we may have cracked it.

I would have thought, after the initial hype, that l’Atelier would be packed out. Errrm. No. Aside from a French couple at the bar and a party of Asian diners on the corner of the bar, nobody else. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Because of the bar concept, it didn’t feel like an empty room (and to be fair, a few more trickled in a bit later). I suspect that this absence of people may be down to the negative view taken by the broadsheets. Harumph!

So what makes l’Atelier worthy of local canteen status – particularly after every broadsheet reviewer has panned the place? Start with the lunch choices – The oeuf cocotte, and oh! the frogs legs in tempura (wow!) and the foie gras and beef burger (!!) but the real success, the true culinary litmus test, was the mashed potatoes.

Do you remember when Mirabelle used to be somewhere that you would actually eat without fear of being shipped off to an OAP home with the rest of the diners? Do you remember the classic pomme puree that they made that was a creamy emulsion of butter and carbo happiness? *sigh* for those days back again, but now, the boys at Robuchon are here to save us with (I don’t want to over hype this, but) the MOST AMAZING combo of butter, cream, and carbs ever. E.V.E.R.

Desert was a bit of a let down for the combination of mint ice cream and a fondant – great fondant, mediocre mintiness. The Saint Aubin on the wine list at £60 was actually value for money. The service was charming. The chef on duty (Udo Moreau if we read his jacket correctly) is, ahem, hot, and deserves to be on the stage in that kitchen for the diners’ pleasure.

Lunch for two on a rainy Saturday afternoon, incl wine and service – £219.38. Mashed Potatoes – Priceless… Ignore the naysayers, sit at the bar, and eat well.

Happy Eating!


Angela Hartnett – W1

October 23, 2006


Ok. So, you decide to arrange a pleasant combo social/business dinner on a Sunday evening for some Middle Eastern clients who normally stay on Park Lane. Why not Angela Hartnett?

It starts well. Efficient reservation staff is usually a good sign and A.H. has great reservation staff.

Following a drink at the Dorchester Bar (mid-90’s interior design realised in the mid-00’s with awful music too loud, although they have Junipero, so… they can be forgiven), we hopped in a taxi (I know, ALL THE WAY) to the Connaught.

I have to say, before continuing, that I adore the Connaught. It is, without a doubt, the best kept secret in London for a charming drink, a good meal, and a roaring fire in Mayfair. But for all of that, we were off to A.H.
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Cellar Gascon & Comptoir Gascon – EC1

October 21, 2006

Whenever I get the opportunity to pop into Cellar Gascon, I try to take it. Cellar Gascon
Last week, I had a meeting in the City and on my way up to Farringdon station I popped in for a quick glass of the Cotes de Gascogne (£6) and a read of Le Monde which is always there. It’s great if you can get in before the city crowds make it, and have a seat at the bar, and a chat with the barman (who, from the southwest of France, is probably a runner up in the cute waiter department).

Meeting up with some friends at the Cellar on Friday, we enjoyed a bottle of the Chateau de Sabazan which is one of our own personal favourites at home. img_sabazan_cotesdesaintmont_1995.jpg
Sabazan is a charming spot in the south of the Gers, and the wine produced from the vines there by Plaimont is one of their best. Available here in London at Nicolas for around £12 – £15, a bottle at the Cellar is still reasonable at £24. Sabazan is produced on 16 hectares and kept in oak for 10 – 14 months at the chateau before bottling. If you end up in the Gers, then I encourage a quick stop in Sabazan if just to admire the view (the chateau remains private).

After some drinkettes at the Cellar, we moved on to the Comptoir…
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Vinoteca – EC1

October 13, 2006


Located just up from Smithfield market, and within striking distance for anyone who has to spend too much time around St Paul’s, the stock exchange, and the various banks in the neighbourhood, Vinoteca is a local gem, no doubt about it.

To be fair, I could be enormously biased by the fact that they happen to have one of the most interesting lists of wine by the glass at reasonable prices in town. Of course, it could also be the fact that they have one of the most gorgeous waiters in town. Either way, what they have going works very well.

The menu at Vinoteca is straight forward fare with reasonably sized starters (and some that can be increased for sharing – like their selection of Spanish cured meats, including a salcichon that was like butter (that’s a good thing)). Janice and I shared this and then launched into the mains – she having the quail, and I a hunk of braised beef with mash, button mushrooms, and some sour cream and sauce. It may have been a bit early yet in the season for braised beef, as Janice rightly pointed out – that may be more of a November/December thing, but it still hit the spot.

Dessert was coffee and a chocolate truffle for me, and that was the perfect way to round off the meal before continuing to dash about town in the afternoon.

So, how does Vinoteca stack up?

Lunch at Vinoteca

  • Lunch for two: I didn’t pay! Hurrah! (Thank you Janice!)

    Food: 7 out of 10

    Service: 8 out of 10

    Atmosphere: 7 out of 10 – something’s missing and suits are starting to appear

    Sexy Factor: 9.5 out of 10 – and it’s not just for London’s hottest waiter (did I mention this already… *drool*), but the crowd at Vinoteca has that hip, Clerkenwell, I-work-for-a-charity-so-please-love-me thing going on

    Return?: Definitely! (Did I mention the sexiest waiter in London?)

  • St John – Smithfield

    October 2, 2006

    I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere of St John at Smithfield, particularly the bar, and the general attitude of the staff. Today’s lunch was no exception.

    The four of us had different takes on the menu. I like the fact that they work with some of the more interesting ingredients like bone marrow, tripe, and put them together with traditional elements like swede or sprout tops. Not that I’m ordering the tripe, mind you, but I like the idea. Another in the group searched long and hard for the least meaty, least offensive element – fair play. And the others seemed to head towards game birds.

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    Tenth Restaurant

    September 29, 2006

    I should have known. Seriously. I looked at the web page, and the chef’s CV, and I saw that burlesque turn to the upholstery on the chairs, and I should have known. I mean, I’ve lived and worked in London long enough to know that any hotel whose name I don’t recognise shouldn’t be on my list of places to eat. Have you heard of Tenth Restaurant?

    Ah, but, well, you know, it’s a dinner with a friend, and, well, why not try new things? Right?


    You know when you’re heading to the Kensington Garden something something Hotel by the number of braying American accents you hear en route and the preponderance of chinos. The colour mauve makes a remarkable appearance in the lobby on the guests. Usually in nylon.

    Into the lift, and up to the tenth floor.

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