The London branch of Robuchon’s high-end globe-spanning chain (there are also outposts in Las Vegas, Taipei and his native Paris) could be anywhere in the world, but thinks it’s funkier than most gastronomic shrines. The ground-floor restaurant – sorry, ‘counter concept’ – is an international nightclub-like red- and black-lacquered room with red leather high stools either facing the chefs at their balancing-act work or at small tables.
Customers are mostly tourists, drawn by the reputation for quality control and clever layering of texture and flavour – distilled in a stunning amuse-bouche of foie gras under a port reduction and hot, umami-rich froth. Flavours are big, such as pig’s trotter with bone marrow on toast, powered up with parmesan (a rewarding choice from the small plates menu). Portions aren’t prissy, either; from the set lunch, chicken escalope dotted with dark olives and roasted cherry tomatoes covered the plate. Steak tartare was exceptionally punchy, though the accompanying ‘hand-cut chips’ were lost in translation – they were actually own-made crisps. Mashed potato was wonderfully rich and smooth, and a side plate of glisteningly green olive oil-bathed courgettes and puréed spiced carrots was no afterthought.
Desserts conjured with refreshing and intensely flavoured combinations of jellies, mousses, foams and ices. Except for lunch, pricing is pitched at fat wallets, with menus and wines matched into accessible packages. Knowledgeable staff come with a twinkle.