Par Margaret Kemp
“Cooking is chemistry, really.” – Joël Robuchon 1945-2018
The dazzling story of “the 20th century’s greatest chef” began when Poitiers born Robuchon became an apprentice to the prestigious “Compagnons du Devoir et de Tour de France” https://compagnons-du-devoir.com
His first Michelin star arrived when, age 28, he was head chef at the Hotel Harmony-Lafayette, Paris. Age 36, he created Jamin, 32 rue de Longchamp, 16th, within three years *** triple-Michelin-starred. Remember the creamy, dreamy, signature pommes purée mashed potato? Using a 1:2 butter to ratte potato ratio, it’s still copied copiously everywhere. Today Jamin houses L’Astrance by Pascal Barbot and Christophe Rohat, complete with “in remembrance” Le Salon Joël https://www.astranceparis.fr
In 2003, following a seven-year "retirement" – to spend more time with his family - Robuchon returned to the stoves launching restaurants in eight cities globally, including Tokyo, New York, USA and Monte Carlo. JR, always happiest in his own kitchen, marked his comeback creating the left bank “no reservations” brand, “L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon” with contemporary red and black interior design by Pierre Yves Rochon.
In his biography Humble Pie,
celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey writes that being employed by Robuchon was tough, “like working for the fucking SAS”. The chef once threw a badly made plate of langoustine ravioli at him, told him he was useless, arrogant, and should consider another career! Ramsey, took the hint and left in mid-service, returned to London and opened Aubergine, his first restaurant. GR says he doesn’t regret his time there, “he taught me rigidity”, he reasons. Other chefs who pay tribute are Michael Caines, Eric Ripert, Mélanie Serre and Dominique Bouchet, Christophe Cussac, not forgetting Antoine Hernandez, his longtime chef sommelier.
Les Ateliers are evolutive, not your formal watering holes, think sushi-tapas bars where high stools replace chairs and a counter replaces tables. “Everyone chats away, often offering tasty morsels to NBF’s (new best friends)”, says Creative Director Clifford Rosen. “I wanted to do something friendly at Les Ateliers, I’m always surprised to see how the Japanese, usually very reserved, relax and chat in sushi bars”, Robuchon explained at the time. “Times have changed, people want simple, inexpensive, cholesterol free dishes”, he forecast. “Here the product is the star, not the chefs!” insisted the visionary JR.
And now, added to the empire, welcome Le Deli Robuchon, King’s Road, Chelsea (there’s another in Piccadilly since 2019) the achingly chic all day open kitchen (from 7am-11pm) space showcasing quintessentially French indulgence in the heart of London’s “swinging Chelsea”, headed by David Alves, Group Executive Chef.
Begin with breakfast (from 7hrs-11.30am) French Style or Avocado and Salmon Toast, Omelettes, with mushrooms, truffles, bacon etc. Fresh breads baked at La Boulangerie https://robuchonlondon.co.uk/la-boulangerie/
The “All Day” menu suggests healthy salads (Quinoa, Braised Beetroot etc) hot and cold sandwiches (Le Club, Salmon Pain Viennois etc) eat in or take away. Croque Monsieur, Vegetarian Quiche, Rotisserie Norfolk Chicken with potatoes and jus. Fish of the Day. Wines by the glass (2021 Chablis, Domaine Moreau-Naudet, Burgundy white anyone?) And the superb Les Cubes Robuchon, sweet and/or savoury.
Champagne Afternoon Tea includes marvellous mini sandwiches; Foie Gras Toast with Spiced Pear Compote, Cucumber Finger Sandwiches, Tarte au Citron, Éclairs au Chocolat, alongside classic English style scones with strawberry jam and Devonshire cream. Perfect with a bottle of Laurent Perrier!
And evenings, as well as the all day menu, there’s an exceptional selection of cheeses, charcuterie boards, matched with cocktails including classic spritzes, Negroni, Highball Chamomile Fizz etc., and, of course, a superb choice of French wines. The mouthwatering pastry selection is endless from Tarte aux Framboises, Gâteau à la Pistache and the much-loved Chocolat et Noisette, as well as the daily changing Choux of the Day and Mille-Feuille of the Day. Oh la la! C’est magnifique!
When he passed away in Geneva, where he was battling cancer, JR had notched up 32 Michelin stars sprinkled across 13 countries.
So, RIP chef – you’re no doubt creating divine meals in that great starry restaurant in the sky.
279 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5EW (Open 7am-11pm) T: +44 (0) 204 4581 8300