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.