Harden's survey result
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“Astronomical” prices have always been a feature of this star French chef’s opulent Covent Garden outpost, where you kick off in the glam, rooftop cocktail bar, and then descend to one of two luxurious dining floors (be it the dark, ground floor, where you perch on high stools near the open kitchen, or the more conventional first floor). But while many fans do find its “theatrical” succession of exquisite (“miniscule”) dishes to be “unbelievably enjoyable”, others feel its level of achievement nowadays is “a far cry from the heady times when it first opened”: “sky high prices are totally justifiable in my book, but only if performance warrants them… but the food was really flat and service careless and terribly slow”.
“Gorgeously decorated” Covent Garden outpost of the star Parisian chef’s global empire, which offers a “sumptuous” experience, from cocktails in the plush, rooftop bar and terrace to the exquisite series of “little taste bombs” served in either of the two luxuriously appointed dining rooms. (On the darker ground floor you perch on high stools, and there’s a counter where you can watch the kitchen – the second floor is more conventional). Its culinary performance is “average compared to the past”, however – even some who say their meal “was not bad by any measure” feel “the taste of the dishes didn’t match their looks”, or feel its mega prices are “not worth it”.
“Exquisite presentation” and “stratospheric” prices are long-running talking points at the Parisian über-chef’s “dark and sexy” Covent Garden outpost (where “the top seats are at the chef’s counter in the ground-floor dining room”). For most reporters it’s still “simply out-of-this-world”, but sliding ratings support those who say “the wow-factor has decreased compared to previous years”. Swish penthouse bar, with roof terrace.
“Delightful and meticulous” delicacies – eaten on high stools, many beside the open kitchen – help justify the vertiginous prices (the “steal of a set lunch” aside) at this “glamorous” Covent Garden outpost of the Parisian über-chef; as the formula dates, though, reporters find the place increasingly “overrated”.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Very much it's own thing, now more suited to ex USSR kleptocrats or eurotrash trust funders... food quite heavy - I left bloated. I didn't feel the food was the central thing here. Lots of meat and meaty things, very rich reductions. Didn't feel French, more like downtown Moscow. An annoying sommelier (insisting that there are no red wines below 16% alc, and that 17 or 18% was the new norm!) didn't help - thought the wines were quite good, if sometimes too strong - but then with the wood to contend with maybe that degree of alcohol is necessary. I suppose it knows its clientele, but that won't include me in the future. I wasn't amazed and my senses tickled as I'd expected. Compared with the taste-centred Hedone we visited recently it seemed heavy-handed. There were amazing dishes in the tasting menu, but overall they were wiped out by the full-frontal assault on my digestive system. Horses for courses, this was heavy going."
Atelier de Robuchon WC2
The mainly black upstairs dining room of JoÃ«l Robuchon's new London 'workshop' - accented with white tiles, pepper pots and bric-Ã -brac - is oddly reminiscent of an early PizzaExpress.
There are differences of course. Few chain outlets, for example, try to get away with tables quite as small as those at this outpost of one of the world's most famous chefs. On the plus side, you arguably get a bit more glamour here (if sitting next a theatrical peer counts). But not that much. The rather hugger-mugger feel is all part of the 'authenticity' of an establishment whose aspirations - despite the location of other branches in Tokyo, Las Vegas and, now, New York - are explicitly not in the direction of grandeur.
The food here is what it's all supposed to be about, and the food here is very good indeed. Some dishes were truly memorable. An amuse-bouche of foie gras with Parmesan froth was superb, as was some prettily presented crab in jelly. Quail stuffed with black truffle and served with sinful buttery mash was luxurious, if tiny. Duck was a 'best ever'. And puddings were exemplary (even if the 'soufflé vert' wasn't especially green).
The problem with reviewing this sort of place is, of course, the feeling that prices have departed from reality. Go the dégustation route (£80) - the one the staff charmingly, push you down - and your budget would encompass dining anywhere else in town. Is the overall experience up to Gordon Ramsay or Le Gavroche? In our view, no (although the price/value trade off looked better in the much sexier-looking downstairs, for which you can't book after 7pm).
But, hey, it certainly makes a change. And the sort of people who keep their Maybachs waiting outside probably don't care too much about the bill.
13-15 West St, London, WC2H 9NE
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lunch noon - 3.30 pm, Sunday 4 pm, dinner 5.30 pm - midnight, Sunday 10.30 pm
Last orders: 11.30 pm, Sun 10 pm