April 2019: it's been announced that Atelier will close on 14 April; Bloomberg’s Richard Vines was first with the news, as well as the rumoured opening of a casual Mayfair restaurant, Comptoir Joël Robuchon, later this year.
Named after the river running past the luxury hotel, The Clunie sources many ingredients from local suppliers, gamekeepers and farmers: seafood and game are key, with many dishes cooked over a wood fire. There's also a public bar, the Flying Stag, serving bar meals and a vast range of whiskys.
Harden's survey result
August 6 2018 saw the passing of Michelin’s most fêted chef ever, and where that leaves the London outpost of his global luxury chain – whose “small plates of taste bombs are a little piece of food theatre” – muddies an already-unclear outlook. For most of its lifetime, the assessment of his “intimate” and opulent two-floor venue (plus cocktail bar with roof terrace) in Covent Garden has been that the experience it provides is “an always-exceptional delight” (if a nose-bleedingly expensive one). But “the food has worsened” in the last 2-3 years, and service at times can be “diabolical”, while the sense that the place is “horrendously overpriced” has magnified. In the year prior to M Robuchon’s death its ratings had staged something of a comeback on all fronts, so all is by no means lost for whoever takes the business forwards from now on.
“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”.
Atelier de Robuchon WC2
The mainly black upstairs dining room of Joël 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
|Monday||12 pm-3 pm, 5:30 pm-10:30 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm-3 pm, 5:30 pm-11 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm-3 pm, 5:30 pm-11 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm-3 pm, 5:30 pm-11 pm|
|Friday||12 pm-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Saturday||12 pm-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Sunday||12 pm-4 pm, 6:30 pm-10:30 pm|