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Entries in 2 Michelin Star (2)

Friday
Jan282011

L'atelier - Heaven

 

Im deliriously happy. I think I might be in heaven.  I've never felt so wholly satisfied after eating a meal. Rewind 5 hours. 

I've heard a lot about L'atelier de Joel Robuchon. How could I not? The guy has about a zillion michelin stars and unlike the other oh-so-glamorous chefs,(ahem *Gordon Ramsey*) all of Mr Robuchon's restaurants, bar 1, have Stars. Thats 26 stars between 11 restaurants. Some achievement. Mr Robuchon has more star's than any other chef on the planet and his London restaurant is the proud holder of two.

So not only did I eat a meal that boosts the name of, arguably, the best chef on the face of the Earth ,which was possibly one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, but better, it cost me £35.00.  Thats the equivalent of a topshop shirt, or a manicure, or 17 one way bus tickets, or a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. 

 

By my calculations, this makes this meal one of the cheapest I have reviewed on this blog so far, its not that I don't eat at cheaper restaurants, its that The Boyfriend's taste in wine automatically skews the cost upwards, (clearly time to start getting dinner without him), but anyway this meal was the clear winner in a price to satisfaction competition.


This was my second trip to a 2* Michelin Star restaurant after my first, disastrous experience at Le Gavroche. How is this place is superior to Le Gavroche? Let me count the ways - 


Firstly, this place is cool. Its all dark, red, shiny and mirrors, low lighting. If you're trying to impress a date this is the place. Theres a bar you can watch the chefs and a wall of plants (yes, it should be tacky but its not). 


Secondly, the service is not only impeccable but also charming and subtle. You hardly notice the waiters as they glide around, in fact, I think they were gliding.


Thirdly, the food is just mind blowingly good.


Fourthly, the food could pass for art.


Fifthly, it was relaxing, not stiff, stuffy or pretentious although, I should check if there is a dress code.


Sixthly, I could actually see the prices.


Anyway, back to the experience. So I headed to what I may now refer to as Heaven,  on a Monday lunch time, sans The Boyfriend,  but plus a friend. Suprisingly, Heaven looks more like Hell, the decor I alluded to above, is all dark and red. This is the kind of restaurant where not only the food looks good but you do too. 


In order to be economical, my friend, The Moonster (childhood nickname that stuck), ordered a starter and a main course (£22.00) and I ordered a main course and a dessert (£22.00) so we could have a bite of everything. 


Bread arrived first. It was pretty good (and free, gotta love that) but butter and oil- less which struck me as a bit odd. I don't know whether it was intentional or not or they just forgot it, but either way without it, the bread was a little dry.

The Moonster and I started with a Salmon Tartare with an avocado something. Just look at the detail. Its so minute and perfect. I actually felt bad stabbing it with my fork. Luckily for me, The Moonster hated this. She said the texture was too soft. I, on the other hand, adored it. The salmon was fresh and cold but didnt overpower but didnt have an overtly fishy flavour, the raspberry and some sort of fish egg provided a salty/sour flavour to the mix ,whilst the avacado mayonnaise thing provided a softer more palate cleansing flavour. Perfect. Full marks.
My fish, the name of which I can't recall, on a bed of vegetables, which I cant recall. Eating food this good is clearly slightly intoxicating.Regardless of the components, it was as good as a starter. It was genuinely wonderful and pretty to boot.
The Moonster went for short rib of beef, with broccoli. I didn't taste it but she seemed as content as I.
For dessert, we split a selection of tarts. From left to right -  Chocolate and Cashew, Pear and Port, Coffee, Cinnamon and Lemon. Its boring to write that these were both perfect and beautiful but really, like the rest of the meal, they were.  The cinnamon one stood out particularly strongly. It tasted like a cinnamon cloud.


Overall, it was a great experience that I think I will be day dreaming about for a long time.


L'Atelier on Urbanspoon

 

Sunday
Nov142010

Le Gavroche - A trip to 1967?

I wasn't going to write about my trip to Le Gavroche. Instead, I was going to relax and enjoy the experience, which is why I failed to take photos. That was until they annoyed me. 




I don't know why other reviews/blogs don't mention this point. Maybe because they are written by the "host", or maybe they think its charming in an old school sort of way. Regardless, only having ONE menu with prices on that goes to the "host" is an irritating concept (I know this is typical in France but in London?). I genuinely don’t know how they work this out. Whether its the name of the person who made the booking or the just assume the man will pay.  If the booking was in my name would I have got the menu with prices? I mean what happens if I want to take my sister to dinner there who is the "man" then?

The restaurant itself, I found a bit outdated which again, I'm sure some people love. I thought it looked a lot like a dark and dingy basement and a much older version of The Brompton Club. But the tables were nicely spread out and large.   

What also annoyed me that in the middle of the table, a table in a restaurant that costs on average £75 a head, was a small cardboard card, much like the ones you find in Pizza Express advertising their "New Christmas Menu only - £14.95!!!", containing a picture of Michel Roux, a blurb about his new book and polite instructions on how you could buy the book for only "£25!!!".  It was tacky, and looked very out of place. If they were going to pimp his book out to people already spending 3 figures per table, it should had have done in a classier fashion and not on a cheap bit of cardboard. 

But anyway, so we moved on 2 amuse bouches were brought out but they weren't memorable. Then we received our menus which neither the Boyfriend or I realised was different. These were our thought processes:

Me - The menus don’t have prices? How cheeky! Is this like one of those really expensive stores? If you need to know the price you shouldn't be eating here? That is a bit snobby. Oh well, I guess none of the prices can be that different. I don’t imagine that they could have a main worth £100 and not warn people about it. I'll have the Artichoke, Foie Gras and Truffle to start and then the T-bone of Turbot with butter chive sauce and spinach. 

The Boyfriend – That is a £40 starter and a £50 main. That is a bit out of character she normally doesn’t order the most expensive thing on the menu. She must be mad at me. I wonder what I've done? Hmmm oh well maybe this will get me out of trouble.... Great sweetie, I'll have the Double Cream Cheese Souffle and the Venison with Chocolate Sauce.

The service was attentive and I think they had more people serving then being served, a nice change in so many restaurants. It was very precise, very well organised but a bit cold. Having 14 people serve you all trying to be efficient meant that you didn’t get the friendly experience so many other restaurants have. It also meant that if you looked around the restaurant you might as well have been watching an athletics track field as the waiters seemed to be running in circles.

The wine list was "very comprehensive" and "physically very heavy" according to The Boyfriend who was also impressed they had Montrachet by the glass in such limited selection of wine by glass. His wine, he liked, though not enough to remember the name. My wine, as usual, got a thumbs-up.

My starter, was beautiful - Artichoke filled with Foie Gras, Truffles and Chicken Mousse. It was surprisingly light; the truffles didn’t over power the rest of the flavours and the bite of the artichoke balanced out the rest of the flavours. Easily the best starter I've had in a long time. Definitly agree with the Michelin Man on this.

The Boyfriend's starter – Cheese Soufflé cooked on Double Cream - was equally good. It looked like a cloud not a soufflé dish in sight in sight just a mass of white goo. All light and fluffy looking but surprisingly "heavy" and "difficult to eat. Perfect "hangover food" although I imagine most people who head to Le Gavroche aren’t hung over - just him and I. 

The next course, I found a little more disappointing. Now, I know I complain about Michelin star restaurants competing to be so "out-there" so innovative, so creative that combinations of flavours that shouldn't be put together are. There is a fine line between fresh, new and interesting vs. plain disgusting and just plain. I feel the starters were in the first category, interesting and something I had never tried before (maybe there are similar things elsewhere, but I have yet to encounter them) even the soufflé, which was cooked in a way unlike any other I had seen before. The main courses were a little less original. This was my first trip to a 2 Michelin Star restaurant - maybe I was expecting too much. But the menu, much like everything else during the experience, was a bit outdated.  Given the standard of cooking in London is rising so rapidly its no wonder that chefs are forced to push the boundaries. Cooking perfect traditional French food isn't enough any more when there is so much competition in the field.

My turbot was perfectly cooked no doubt. The whole combination of flavours was lovely. From the chive and butter sauce, to the spinach, to the cannelloni with swede was great but at the same time not groundbreaking. Maybe I was only let down by the two star tag but I regardless was disappointed. 

The Boyfriend's Venison with chocolate sauce - The Boyfriend finished every bite of this. At least he offered to let me try some. His one complaint was that there was little too much of the chocolate sauce but regardless I think had we been at home he might have licked the plate.

Despite groaning that we were "so full I’ll never eat again ". We went for dessert. This is when we realised the menu pricing issue as both men and women get to see the prices of the dessert. As I commented on this, the boyfriend pointed out that the price had menus leaving me wondering for a good ten minutes whether I was losing my mind or vision. The Boyfriend, hoping to reassure himself and I that I wasn't crazy; asked the waitress who explained the situation.

The Tarte Tatin was faultless but nothing spectacular. Not "all I want to do is eat this dish over and over again for the rest of my life" or "I would trade you, my boyfriend/girlfriend, for this dish". Just good. 

The cost came to £210, which given that my food cost £90 is understandable. I happen to wonder whether that might be the logic for the menu/price thing - that people will be encouraged to more expensive things like me or that your supposed to be encouraged to eat whatever you want regardless of cost but I felt a bit cheated and embarrassed when I saw the bill. Assuming that you were on a date or with someone who you wouldn't discuss the bill with I think it gets even more awkward because they would assume that you knew the price but just happy to have them pay for the wildly expensive thing you just ordered without realising.

I dont't think it was worth the cost. If there was a choice between repeating the experience or buying that Alexander McQueen Skull Scarf I've been wanting so much the scarf would have left me much happier.

The Boyfriend summed up the meal by saying "The food is the type that will give you a heart attack if you are over the age of 50, but I guess that is French food." In the end, I guess you are paying for the brand, with 43 years of experience the restaurant is so well-established and an institution at that, that they can demand the prices they do and continue to have punters regardless of the experience. However, the food is very good but some things need to be updated.


I'm not alone in my issues!
43 Upper Brook Street
London

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