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
13-15 West St (near cnr Shaftesbury Ave), Charing Cross, London, England
Tel: 0207 010 8600
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-2:30pm (lunch)