Everything here is stylish. Dividing your kitchen bar table from the kitchen itself is a glass display cabinet of sea shells on sand while in the kitchen you gaze onto a leg of ham on the bone, lemon baskets and onions hanging from the rail. Red’s the colour of L’Atellier and apples are the theme. Combining these just inside the door is a giant three foot in diameter apple (not real of course) and the apples are seen throughout the restaurant. The back wall is entirely taken by the green leaves of an artificial plant that stretches floor to ceiling. This therefore is a carefully crafted design restaurant.
Our initial buzz of excitement started to wear a little thin when we offered a drink (gin and tonic) but then it took close on fifteen minutes to arrive. What’s more, the staff seemed surely and generally unwelcoming; by the end of our meal though, they had thoroughly redeemed themselves.
As usual, we chose the tasting menu with paired wines though elected to go for the standard rather than the prestige wines. Rather than a traditional amuse bouche, we were offered a plate of Iberico ham that we had just watched being cut from the bone which offered a gorgeous melt in the mouth start. The first real starter (actually termed an aperitif) was a Parmesan cappuccino with a port reduction which sat on top of a smooth pate of foie gras (Mrs CC says it reminded her of peanut butter and jelly). This little starter began the long list of ‘wows’ and ‘oh my gods’ that followed almost every course. While the parmesan cheese – foie gras combination is not an obvious one, the dish came together perfectly balanced, light, and almost refreshing. The first masterstroke.
Looking through the kitchen to the hot plate, we could see two prawns sizzling and guessed correctly that these were for us. The menu lists the dish as ‘Tiger prawns “a la plancha” with exotic flavours’ though we thought that here the concept of ‘show don’t tell’ applied – does the guest really need to be told that the dish contains exotic flavours; we’re knit picking here though. The exotic flavours so mentioned were a combination of cilantro, pineapple, orange, jasmine and lime on the side to squeeze over if so desired. We enjoyed the dish though the prawn put up some resistance to leaving its shell and with prawns so ubiquitously served these days, it’s hard for any chef to do something so different with it to make it a truly memorable dish. The prawn was washed down with an American pinot gris.
This menu is certainly not for those who are shy of foie gras and the next dish saw the second of three occasions that foie gras would feature. Here, it enjoyed star billing coming seared and accompanied by black cherries. This was good foie gras and Mrs CC suggested it made her tingle in places that you don’t normally expect to react in a restaurant; quite rude really but it does suggest just how good this was. Coupled with a black muscat, you should be in no doubt by now that we were happy.
With a break before desert, the staff were now kind enough to show us the rest of L’Atelier. The first floor restaurant ‘La Cuisine’ offers a more traditional seating arrangement which we were told is preferred by business people who want to talk business over food rather than food over food. On the third floor meanwhile is ‘Le Bar’ which seems little known and little used. The big advantage here is the breath of fresh air the outside terrace brings and the opportunity for a smoke for those who do. We were offered the opportunity to take our dessert on the terrace which we readily agreed to. The staff were great and brought up all our things from the restaurant to our new table upstairs and outside.
The staff who seemed cold on entry came alive during the meal and interaction grew rapidly. They totally engaged us even taking my camera at one point into the kitchen to take a picture for us that we didn’t have a good angle on from our seats. They were keen to show us everything L’Atelier had to offer and while we had no special requests, I believe they would have done their very best to accommodate them if we had. By the end, they’d completely won us over.