Unable to make up our minds what to pick from the menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon the other night (and doing a quick calculation as to how much it would cost if we ate la carte) we opted for the tasting menu which threw up the usual hits and misses with the four wines our friendly waitress recommended by the glass. A shame because the quality of the food overall was outstanding.
A crisp Terras Gauda from Rias Baixas that went perfectly with a fabulous dish of frogs legs served like mini kievs stuffed with garlic flavoured mash didn’t remotely do justice to what must be the ultimate potato salad garnished with curls of foie gras and black truffle shavings. And a buttery Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills struggled both with a just-cooked egg cocotte topped with a layer of air-light mushroom froth and a perfectly caramelised scallop with a dark, dense watercress puree (both dishes, admittedly very hard to match with wine).
To their credit they couldn’t have been more helpful, allowing us to share each wine we ordered by dividing it between two glasses (it was a Monday night!) and even giving us a taste of three of the reds on offer to see which we liked best. One of the proferred wines, an Ata Rangi Clbre, would have been far too muscular to deal with a very delicate dish of sweetbreads which came with a tiny pot of Robuchon’s fabled mash - a liason of cream and butter, barely held together with potato. But it went fine with the Murdoch James Pinot Noir from Martinborough we ordered as did a umami-rich dish of roast quail, stuffed with foie gras.
We were feeling pretty stuffed ourselves by this time but managed to find room for two dazzling desserts, a Chartreuse souffle served with pistachio ice cream and a wonderfully playful white chocolate mousse, topped with a disc of dark chocolate and decorated with what looked like a necklace of pewter-coloured chocolate balls (see rather fuzzy illustration above).
I don’t understand though why a place where every dish is so carefully crafted should leave it entirely to chance what you drink. Sure, you should be able to order whatever bottle you like just as you can go in and just eat a plate of frogs legs or a dessert but with a tasting menu where every dish is designed to be perfectly in balance with the last it seems perverse not to at least offer the option of a perfectly matched drink, even if it’s no more than a shot.
For anyone who enjoys great food though L'Atelier is a must - but obviously not for a cheap night out.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is at 13-15 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ. Tel: +44 (0)207 010 8600
See more discussion about the pitfalls of tasting menus on the forum.