Harden's survey result
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“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”.
OK, prices are “sky high”, but the “divine little morsels” on offer at the Parisian über-chef’s “very sleek” and “seductive” Theatreland outpost are a total “wow” for most reporters (especially at lunch, which is “tremendous value”); “sit at the bar, so you can see what’s going on in the open kitchen”.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Busy Saturday dinner. Food was tasty but not as well constructed as we expected. Service was good but it was all very rushed staff under too much pressure with little space to work in. Ambience was good because it was so busy and its a nice general set up. No real reason to return though unless you need a quick meal before a show."
"Steak tartare really enjoyed by everyone, sweetbreads perfectly cooked, amuse bouche of foie gras exceptional, great wine list, attentive, responsive service. Tough to fault."
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 pm, dinner 5.30 pm - 10.30 pm
Last orders: 11.30 pm, Sun 10 pm