London reinvention of the Joel Robuchon brand
Joel Robuchon chain closed their L’Atelier (workshop) branch in West Street in April 2019 for reasons that are difficult to pin down. However, it reopened as Comptoir (counter) in Mayfair, just off Piccadilly just before Christmas 2019. The head chef is Jeremy Page who headed the old team on West Street in its older form of L’Atelier and the menu has numerous classics from the Robuchon brand including the renowned creamed mash, quail with foie gras and crustacean jelly with caviar. It is lighter in its design than the L’Atleier brands that can be found elsewhere in the world including the 2 Michelin starred Etoile in Paris and 3 Michelin starred L’Atelier in Hong Kong. The £75 price per head for this lunch confirmed it is still in keeping with the expensive brand, then again if you decide to open on Clarges Street, your rent and overheads are not going to be small. The bottom line is that in spite of the price tag, I’m glad they reopened in London as it is a quality brand all round and I have always enjoyed their food.
The menu at Comptoir is a little confusing as there is a ‘sharing menu’ option at £95 per head but within the pages of the sharing menu, the choices are all priced individually. I would press the staff to explain this better as I did not seem to get a comprehensible answer. The £39 set lunch menu for 3 courses was much easier to follow and so I did this as it included some of the things I have always loved and I wanted to see if there was much of a change in amongst some new dishes.
Bread came from the Robuchon bakery in Acton and was customarily plenteous in choice and with pleasant butter from Bourdier. My pig’s trotter starter had a very nicely judged mustard and tarragon flavour and came in a good pastry case and with a side of welcome vinegarette to cut through the sticky texture that it was, but any more vinegar in the dressing might have been in danger of dissolving teeth.
The crustacean jelly with white crab is a very picturesque and exactly the same in design as a signature dish from Robuchons all over the world, including that which I had enjoyed at 3 Michelin starred Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon had only a few weeks prior in Tokyo. This version is virtually identical aside from this caviar being a lighter hue and the portion size far smaller but at the same price which was a shame. The jelly made from lobster and prawns was lovely again and the cauliflower blobs and dots of parsley, all of which went so well together. £49 is a steep price tag for this dish, but this will be the tag associated with the caviar from Madison de caviar which seems to be fair based on the portion size.
The quail with creamed mash is a Robuchon classic and the quail with foie gras was good, although one part seemed slightly too pink. The recipe is a staple of Robuchon and will never be in danger of not being liked, although the portion size for this main is frankly measly, making the price tag so high. A pasta dish of puttanesca (spaghetti with black olive, garlic, anchovies, capers and mozzarella in a tomato sauce. This was fine but nothing to get excited about and again, quite small as a main, but this was more reasonably priced at £15.
Desserts included an apple ‘tatin’ with ginger and caramel which was a nicely balanced collection of flavours through the caramel sauce, the pressed apple drums, cream and gingerbread discs. My rum baba was well done with a good glaze to the exterior, soft and spongey interior with pleasant chantilly cream with a tiny piece of tasteless gold leaf, used purely to look elegant (which it does to be fair, just as long as you do not expect anything else). The rum was poured at the table and I would offer a friendly word of warning in that when the waiting staff say, “Say when”, they do mean it as they will keep pouring the rum until you do which, was my bad for forgetting to cancel the pour(!). No biggie as a decent boozy dessert was welcome. Petit fours were a mix of lemon and yuzu tartlet, chocolate bonbon with pecan nut praline – all these were a restrained but slick end to the meal.
This was a lovely meal and aside from the lighter decor and the long counter with equally long banquette running opposite, this was essentially the same Robuchon with the same, expensive price tags. If you want to have a fuller experience, I would bank on needing a minimum of £100 per person to include a splash of wine or two as well. Sadly it does not seem to still carry the pre-theatre menu and dinner service starts at 6pm but it is open 7 days a week (at the moment).
In summary: great to have you back in London Robuchon team, but c’mon, please do beef up the portion sizes, just a tad.
Food Grade: 76%
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