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.