A French weekend in London

Another free weekend in Europe makes for another mini-escapade across the continent. Our trip to London felt more “legitimate” than our weekend to Paris – we had to pass through customs, show our passports and leave the EU – however it had less of a tourist focus as it was also planned as an opportunity to catch up with Monsieur Poisson’s cousin whom we’d not seen in almost two years. It would also be the first time in two weeks where we’d once again be located in an English-speaking city.

Lufthansa, although a bit pricey being the only flights left available to us, had beautifully new planes with roomier-than-average seats. The inflight snack was a curious dense-ish, jam-filled bun thing and it felt like no sooner had we eaten that we were on the descent into Heathrow. Once we’d made our way from the airport to Oxford Street we found ourselves, somewhat surprisingly, in the English sunshine. It was by no means warm (yet), as both the locals and we were rugged up in coats and scarves, but it was an infinite improvement on the washed out scenes on television of the previous Diamond Jubilee weekend. Remnants of that weekend’s celebrations however – bunting and Union Jacks strung up almost everywhere – served as a reminder which enhanced the Englishness of our experience.

The food which we sampled turned out to be more of a continuation of our prior weekend in Paris and the food which we didn’t get to eat whilst there. Our lunch location and cuisine were unknown to us until we were led through the through the doors of Terroirs, a wine bar and bistro around the corner from Trafalgar Square. Small plates were shared between four of us – a selection of charcuterie, steak tartare, artichoke with a ball of mozzarella and the intriguing ‘Cervelle de canut’ with its light, smooth texture of a dip/spread being named after a silk worker’s brain. The sardines, although fiddly to eat with their fine threadlike bones, were contrasted and balanced in taste and texture by a topping of pine nuts, sultanas and capers, but a definite highlight were the buttery snails swathed in garlic and parsley sauce and topped with wild mushrooms.

The French theme continued through to dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, an outlet of which we’d stumbled upon in Paris and also where we’d enjoyed an afternoon tea in Hong Kong. We had a reservation at this two Michelin-starred restaurant for seats at the counter, much like a sushi bar with a bird’s eye view of the kitchen, which we discovered “could not be held for us” when we arrived 15 minutes late. Unfortunately we’d had no way of contacting the restaurant ahead of time to let them know we were running behind – we were delayed through navigating a workaround in the maze of intersecting Tube lines due to weekend trackwork, where there is zero mobile phone reception. We were consoled by an offer of a table in their La Cuisine dining area instead, but I understand each area has its own separate kitchens.

With my soul soothed by a summery bellini and flatbread crisps to nibble on while perusing the menu, an amuse bouche of foie gras mousse was presented to us topped with something-something, which tasted faintly of cocoa/chocolate, and parmesan foam. (You see, being a hop, skip and a jump from central Europe means that there are French staff working in London restaurants and sometimes, perhaps, I may get a little too enamoured with the accent that I don’t pay close attention to what’s being said...) Small tasting plates of ‘La Saint-Jacques’, scallops cooked in the shell with spicy chive oil, and ‘La Ricotta’, spinach ricotta ravioli with quail egg and morels, had us marvelling at the perfectly cooked bivalves and teasingly translucent pasta with runny yolks within. The golden shards adorning the plate of ravioli tasted like the crispy edges of a buckwheat crepe and, not being all that hungry to begin with, left me room to only order another small plate as my “main”. That being none other than ‘Le Burger’, beef and foie gras mini burgers with bell peppers and crinkle-cut chips. The mini brioche bun towers are taller than they are wide with the foie gras making the experience almost too rich if it wasn’t for the still-crunchy tricolour sticks of capsicum.

The husband had a proper main dish of ‘Le Boeuf’, a beef fillet with Malabar pepper sauce and confit potatoes. The perfectly round medallion of beef sported a dense crust of crushed peppercorns, a separate creamy pepper sauce for pouring over the top and, then, a small pot of that famed Joël Robuchon pommes purée – never have potatoes received so much buttery loving attention to produce as sublimely sensual a texture.

In retrospect I kind of wish we hadn’t ordered dessert, for there was the most perfect verrine of a pre-dessert comprising of raspberry coulis base, panna cotta, almond crumble and a white chocolate tile. There was a balance of sweet, tart, smooth and crunchy which left you utterly satisfied and where more isn’t necessarily more. ‘Le mango-mango’ was a tropical paradise of mango coulis, mango mousse, jaconde biscuit and “exotic sorbet” but left me wanting more textural interest. ‘La Bulle’ was a shiny Christmas bauble of a sugar sphere anointed with gold leaf and encasing yoghurt mousse, strawberries and herb sorbet. It was slightly heartbreaking to have to smash open the delicate sugar shell to get to the contents, which weren’t terribly pretty with the herb-green sorbet, but the flavours worked! Think sweet, English summer strawberries with mint and thick, creamy yoghurt. After this sugar onslaught, a platter of choose-your-own petits fours appeared – always a dangerous offering around me – but we exercised restraint with a lemon marshmallow each, a caramel choc and a praline chocolate. We missed out on the salted caramels but luckily there were more of these in a bowl by the entrance, and we nab a few while collecting our coats.

And then, it’s off to M&M’s World!

5 William IV St, Covent Garden, London, England
Tel: 0207 036 0660

Opening Hours:  Mon-Sat  12pm-11pm
                        Sun  CLOSED

Terroirs on Urbanspoon
13-15 West St (near cnr Shaftesbury Ave), Charing Cross, London, England
Tel: 0207 010 8600

Opening Hours:  Mon-Sat  12pm-2:30pm (lunch)
                                       5:30-10:30pm (dinner)
                        Sun  CLOSED

L'Atelier on Urbanspoon
happy eating!


  1. A weekend in London...how lucky! Pity you lost your seat at the bar (how frustrating) but your meal looked pretty good in the end.

  2. Such a shame they couldn't hold the table but I guess they would have quite a few people on the waiting list! And lucky you for not being met with drizzly weather :) That pre-dessert sounds amazing!

  3. How lucky to even be able to say "free weekend in Europe". Why wouldn't you take up the opportunity to go somewhere. Shame about the tough timing rules and losing your table, but nonethless looks like you had a great meal. The La Bulle looks fantastic!

  4. That all looks so so incredible. I am extremely jealous! Beautiful photography :)

  5. Such a shame you guys lost your table, but it looks like you had a great meal anyway!

  6. What a lovely way to spend the weekend. Beautiful photos! I recently went to my first Robuchon restaurant. The food has so much attention to detail!

  7. I love London, the feel the vibe, I just love it. The mini burgers are gorgeous and with foie gras non the less.

  8. I'm jealous of everything in this post! Sooooooo jealous

  9. England is in the EU :)


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