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Thursday, 17 February 2011
Robuchon Restaurant in London
Joel Robuchon: chef extraordinaire, and world renowned restaurateur.
In 1989 Robuchon was named "Chef of the Century" by the guide Gault Millau and with top quality restaurants all over the world he is delighting customers on every continent. For my birthday lunch I visited his London restaurant to taste the genius creations myself. It was recommended to me by my expert foodie grandparents, so I had high expectations.
Robuchon sits deliciously next to the Ivy in Covent Garden; dark and smart, it is a discreet venue. Walking inside it feels like a members club - relaxed and welcoming. There are two options for seating: L’Atelier (bar-like stools surrounding the open plan kitchen, for more casual dining) or La Cuisine on the first floor where the seating arrangement is more traditional and formal. Intrigued by the Atelier idea I opted for a table there, after being assured that the menus in both areas are the same. It was definitely the right choice: intimate seats surround the kitchen, it was lots of fun seeing how everything was assembled.
There are several menus to choose from, of which the Menu du Jour is the best value. Available from 12:00 – 15:00 and 17:30 – 18:30, and at just £22 for two courses or £27 for three courses, this offer is too good to be true. Each course has three options; starter and main each have a fish, meat, and vegetarian dish. Here’s what we chose:
Sweet corn soup with popcorn
Classic beef tartare topped with fried quail’s egg
Roasted Gloucestershire old spot pork served with thin French fries
Grilled Scottish salmon with fennel and lemongrass sauce
Almond biscuit with blood orange jelly, milk chocolate ice cream
Selection of traditional tarts
Instead of wine we ordered two mixed juices (or virgin cocktails) from the drinks menu. These were fresh and carefully concocted with fresh fruits, priced at £6 each. I had a sweet lychee and blackberry that was refreshing and delicious. A decorative red bread basket was brought to us with a generous selection of loaves, though I did have to ask for butter. My steaming soup arrived promptly, a beautiful buttercup yellow colour, with a meticulously stacked garnish of popcorn and apple strips. Quite possibly the best soup I have ever tasted, jointly with my auntie’s butternut squash recipe. The flavours and textures of the components were expertly matched - an impressive first course. I didn’t hear much from my satisfied companion so I’m assuming he enjoyed his beef too.
My main was exquisitely presented, a juicy strip of pork on a delicate long plate, with the crispiest, yummiest tiny little french fries; they were more like couture crisps. The salmon looked amazing placed on a bed of leeks with a mysterious surrounding moat of fennel and lemongrass foam. Our waiter wasn’t quite as attentive as I would have liked but was friendly and informative about the food.
Our desserts were very typically French, and reminded me of lazy afternoons in cute cafes in the South of France. Out of the two, I preferred the selection of tarts - petite slices of six different cakes (coffee, lemon, chocolate etc), it looked lovely and had great variety, though none were as good as my grandmothers incredible apple tart. My dessert was good, but not quite as scrumptious as I was hoping it would be. A nice mix of flavours, the almond and orange cake was moist and light, but I didn’t much like the chocolate ice cream that accompanied, it was bland and uninteresting.
For our coffees we were taken upstairs to the comfy bar area. It was nice to see this lounge space, though I didn’t find it nearly as lively and exciting as the Atelier downstairs. Sadly no petit fours or complimentary sweets were brought with our after lunch drinks which I found massively disappointing, as I adore culinary surprises!
Overall though this was a very special meal for my special day. Robuchon has received two Michelin stars for this restaurant and I doubt there is a more reasonable set menu around for such luxurious food. A perfect option for an affordable but memorable Valentines meal. I will definitely be returning very soon.