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Robuchon in London

Posted: Feb 20, 2007 5:42am ET

I ran into super chef Joël Robuchon at breakfast last Saturday in London at the St. Martins Lane Hotel. I was there with my two children, getting geared up for a matinee of The Sound of Music. Robuchon had been fine-tuning his latest L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, which is sort of high class zen-sushi-bar-looking place featuring all of his signature three-star dishes, and more, as well as a good selection of wines by the glass. He has them in Paris, New York, Las Vegas, and Tokyo.

I went over and spoke to him for a few minutes, and he said it was all going very well in London. He’s received lots of good reviews already. The restaurant is around the corner from St. Martins Lane Hotel, which, by the way, is the best hotel in the Morgan Hotel Group, in my opinion. The restaurant is just on the outskirts of Covent Garden.

I remember going to Robuchon’s original L’Atelier in Paris in January 2005. And the food was fantastic. It was as precise and flavorful as ever, even compared to when he was at the top of his game in the 1980s in the city. The only problem was the service, which was condescending and verging on rude. I guess they didn’t like us because we were Canadians, Americans and Mexicans. Or we just weren’t French. But service is just as important as the food, particularly with the L’Atelier experience, which is very up close.

I wish I could have gone last weekend and tried L’Atelier but I was with my 8 and 12-year-old. So I opted for Zafferano’s, which is still London’s best Italian restaurant. The burrata on a bed of sautéed eggplant, red peppers and tomatoes was simple and succulent, while a roasted whiting with lentils and a salsa verde was thoroughly fresh and satisfying. More importantly, the children loved their pasta and potato dumplings. “Just like being home in Italy,” beamed my son, Jack.

I had a pleasant glass of 2003 La Spinetta Barbera d'Asti Ca' di Pian, which was a little lean for the ripe 2003 vintage, but fresh and lively with the food. Better was the Sicilian red that was served before: 2003 Cottanera Nerello Mascalese Sicilia Fatagione. I hadn’t tasted this vintage for the magazine yet but it was fruity, full and juicy. It’s a blend of Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese.

I doubt they are serving either wine at L’Atelier in London.

Bobby Chandra
London —  February 20, 2007 8:55am ET
Hello James, Sorry to bring up a topic not discussed in your blog, but I have just received an offer from my wine merchant of BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO Santa Caterina d'Oro Riserva 2001 CIACCI PICCOLOMINI. They quote a score of 98 from yourself, but I cannot seem to find the tasting notes or score on wine spectator online. Just wondering if you really did rate this wine or if my wine merchant is trying to pull a fast one. Thanks
James Suckling
 —  February 20, 2007 9:50am ET
No fast ones. The note and score (98 points) was in the Insider newsletter a week or two ago. It should be published in the magazine soon.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  February 20, 2007 1:04pm ET
dear james, first of all i miss you in Cancun and i know personaly john grey and i am kind of disapointed that he didnt call me !!!! one thing, being a sommelier in 3stars michelin in France, i can tell you that the attitude of waiters and anybody in this kind of restaurant is ALWAYS rude regardless of where you are from. You can be from togo, japan, france or the USA and they always treat you like they were Robuchon themselves or, worse, like THEY were the client. It is a major problem in the F&B industry in France and everybody is surprised and after that say that the French are rude. Nope, just those ugly waiters that thinks they are the kings of the world because for them it is WOW to work on a 3 stars and they feel like being at the top of their career. I please ask you to accept my apologies in the name of the entire corp. of sommelier and service employee that are not like that.regardsludovic
Christopher Hendrix
Worthington, OH —  February 20, 2007 1:58pm ET
James,Thanks for the insight on London. My wife and I are making our first trip to Europe in two months, with stops in London and Tuscany for a majority of the trip (one full day in Paris). I'd love to pick your mind on where to stay and eat (not too high-end...value) and fascinating wineries to hit in Tuscany. I have about 10 guide books but they only go so far. Thanks!Donnie via Chris
James Suckling
 —  February 20, 2007 3:46pm ET
I will give you a few tips...
Thomas A Mobley Iii
Tallahassee, FL —  February 20, 2007 8:21pm ET
James, regarding the following excerpt from your post: "...which is sort of high class zen-sushi-bar-looking place..." This type of description is sorely needed, greatly appreciated, and very usefully descriptive, not to mention highly entertaining! You definitely have some Southern culture about yourself! Thank you again!
Michael Mintz
Washington DC —  February 20, 2007 9:10pm ET
Anacleto!I, as only one, accept your apology...what is it with waiters/sommeliers that think they are 'that' much better???? I have gotten compliments, and pride myself on a realistic approach to wine and food; I love it when a client is 'associated' rather than 'intimidated'....
Peter Chang
Hong Kong —  February 21, 2007 1:59am ET
James, did you not stop by the new L'Atelier in HK when you came through in December? I would put it at the top of the game in HK...at least on par with Pierre and better than Petrus and Caprice.And of course the wine list is simply not comparable to anything else in town... I can just stand there looking at the '21 Yquem and '31 Noval Nacional and drool...
James Suckling
 —  February 21, 2007 2:16am ET
Peter. I will try it out in a few weeks then... I thought Pierre is terrible. I always like Petrus. And I really enjoyed Caprice. In fact, I think the later is my favorite for European food restaurants in HK.
Dot Silvestro Silvestori
Lecce, Italy —  February 26, 2007 2:30am ET
James,I'd love to talk to you. I'm bicycling the Southen Italian wine route for a month and would love to talk to you about it. Silvestro SilvestoriOwner/directorThe Awaiting Table Cookery School in Lecce, Italy

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