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Mar 18, 2011 08:54 AM

Great value Michelin Starred restaurant in London- suggestions here

I love trying Michelin starrred restaurants and be my own judge. But recently I also develop an interesting in finding good value Michelin Starred restaurants without breaking the bank. I thought I would start a discussion so that everyone can share tips!

Here is my latest find- set menu at 2 Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. £22 for 2 courses! Details and photos: http://wp.me/p18zw1-Yg

Why that particular restaurant? Well it was the cheapest 2 starred Michelin restaurant I could find in London. Simple as that. I’d heard good and bad things about Robuchon’s restaurants. I have a relative who is boycotting them, due to them raising the prices in his Tokyo restaurant to reflect the weakness of the Japanese yen, but then failing to lower the price again once the yen appreciated.

They currently have a menu du jour offering, where you can have a 2 course meal for £22, or a 3 course meal for £27, or you could order from their regular menu. Given the current economic climate, naturally I plumped for the menu du jour.

I keep a running score in my head of how much my michelin starred meals cost. e.g. my meal at the Fat Duck, worked out at £180 for the meal, so about £60 per star, per person; Galvin @ Windows came in around £100 per star, and One Dim Sum (in Hong Kong) came in at a legendary £4 per star. So potentially I could have a meal, that would come in at just over £11 per star. This would have to be the best value meal in the UK!

We booked dinner for 12.30 on Sunday. On arrival we were warmly greeted, and taken to our seats at the bar. It is a curious concept, French dining but with Japanese style lay out and service. In the same way a sushi chef would pass things over to you as you sit at the counter, here the staff pass the dishes over to you as they are prepared infront of your eyes only a few feet away.

The decor of the restaurant is a very modern red and black, and they appeared to be having an apple phase. There were apples on display through out the restaurant, but curiously they were not that apparent on the menu!

We were one of the first guests to arrive for the lunchtime service, so there were only 3 other people in the restaurant when we started dining. At that time the volume of music they played in the restaurant did seem disconcertingly loud, but as the place became busier and livelier it seemed to be the correct ambient level.

For our starters we chose La Chataigne (a chestnut soup), and L’Oeuf (an egg cocotte in mushroom cream). Both were delicious. The only slight imperfection was that the egg and mushroom cream was served in a martini glass, and soup had spilled down the neck of the glass.

Our mains of Les Spaghetti (Atelier style spaghetti) and Le Lapin (braised rabbit) were equally good. The spaghetti was in an intense tomato (and I assume breadcrumb) sauce, and with the generous shavings of parmesan, was full of umami flavour. The rabbit was surrounded by a ring of macaroni, where each piece was stood on its end, and somehow attached to its neighbour, to form a ring to hold the rabbit. It must have been stunningly labour intensive and was a great deal of fun.

I think this is why Atelier is so clever. If you sit at the bar, you are only a few feet away from the chefs, and you see the attention that they pour into their craft. It does cut both ways, some things seem slightly less magical when you see them in preparation. Before they served the egg, the chef removed a layer of cling film from the martini glass to add the mushroom. Now being home cooks the only time we clingfilm a dish is when we heat it in the microwave. Were they reheating the egg by microwave? That would be impossible, but why would the mushroom cream in the martini glass be clingfilmed?

The meal really is only half the experience. The menu du jour allows you to taste the skills of the chefs with some of the cheaper ingredients, but while you sit at the counter, you are exposed to all the dishes that that Atelier are famous for. We sat directly opposite an Iberian ham, that every few minutes, a chef would return to, to shave off a few slices, for some lucky diner.

We watched as the chefs painstakingly prepared a lobster salad. The concentration and effort they put into it was incredible. You realise the amount of effort they put into the aesthetic presentation of the dish.

All through our meal, we saw more and more dishes that we decided we would order next time we return. The menu du jour allows you to taste the skill of the chef, but throughout the meal you are able to see the other dishes prepared, and they just increased our desire to return and select dishes from the a la carte menu.

One intriguing dish saw diners presented with what appears to be an entire tin of caviar…

For an additional £5, you can add dessert to your meal. We ordered Les Tartes (a selection of traditional tarts) and La Noisette (Hazelnut biscuits with crunchy praline, chocolate and caramel mousse). Both were delicious and were an ideal way to round off the meal. The tart selection were minitures which consisted of lemon, chocolate brownie, pear, coffee and cinnamon. The brownie one was my favourite as it was smooth and soft. The walnut inside made the texture more interesting. With so many different flavours of tart, it’s ideal for sharing, luckily my tastes complimented my dining companions as the tarts she didn’t like, I was more than happy to finish off for her. I was slightly confused by La Noisette, from it’s description I was expecting something more biscuit like, but what I received was closer to a giant multi textured chocolate bar! However, it was a chocolate bar with a touch of 2 star luxury, flecked with bits of edible gold leaf. (We had gold leaf on a different version of chocolate bar at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal too!) How often can you have such a luxurious dessert for £5?

From the pictures, the portions may have seemed a little small, but I can assure you that after our dining experience we were both surprised by how full we were!

An example of the attention to detail was the Staub teapot. This monster of teapot was the height of over engineering. It’s solid cast iron, but it only contained 2 cups of tea, and was very very heavy. The was definitely overkill for a fresh mint tea, but it is certainly the most memorable teapot ever encountered during a meal out.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Atelier. It’s very much like going to a cinema, seeing dishes that you did not order get prepared, they work almost as movie trailers, enticing you to return to try the blockbuster dishes.

Fat Duck
High St, Bray, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 2, GB

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  1. Nahm doesn't get much play on this board (I think), but it does have a great lunch deal and superb food. I can't find the link to their menu, but if I remember correctly, it was about 30 per head, plus drinks and service. The teapot, unfortunately, was not very memorable; nor was the decor which was standard hotel blah.

    Halkin St, London, England SW1X 7, GB

    8 Replies
    1. re: tavegyl

      I think Nahm doesn't have a michelin star anymore, no? How do they compare to 101 Thai?

      Halkin St, London, England SW1X 7, GB

        1. re: limster

          I hadn't known Nahm had lost its star. I think the food is superb; I'd be hard pressed to choose between them and 101 Thai. Nahm's food has a greater refinement and delicacy of touch, perhaps, but that is as it should be, given their different aspirations.

          1. re: tavegyl

            "...but that is as it should be, given their different aspirations." - couldn't agree more, i often suspect that many lump all Thai food in together rather than appreciate the range of styles. A "Royal Thai" (Siam) meal is going to be very different from an Isaan meal or street style food (pad thais and salads). I often feel Nahm suffers because of this, both my meals there met my expectations and were enjoyable, but it was a long way from other styles of Thai food. That said I thought the star was odd.

            Halkin St, London, England SW1X 7, GB

            1. re: PhilD

              Totally - Nahm is one of my fave restaurant experiences I've ever had. You're absolutely right about the fact that it is palace food executed with a deft and sophisticated touch. Palace food isn't as well understood as street food and not as widely available outside Thailand so it is often surprising to people who consider themselves to be knoweldgeable of the cuisine. There used to be a street food restaurant attached as well called Sails, but I have no idea what happened to that.
              The fact that it lost its star actually leads me to further my doubts about the Michelin guide than doubt the quality of Nahm.

              I think a part of this is that David Thompson isn't just a particularly gifted chef, he is one of the world's most knowledgeable people on Thai food cultures and pathways as well as Thai culture. This shows in anything he does, be it his restaurants (his closure Darley Street Thai in Sydney is still keenly lamented) or his incredible books thai Food and Thai Street Food, which are more immersion courses than cook books.

              Just out of curiosity has anyone been to Nahm Bangkok? I've heard wonderful things also.

              Halkin St, London, England SW1X 7, GB

              1. re: Samuelinthekitchen

                ive heard better things abt nahm bangkok than abt nahm in london. i understand what you guys are both saying, and i've enjoyed my meals at nahm, but i still feel like they tone it down a bit (which i seem to remember david thompson even admitting in an interview at one point)

                1. re: t_g

                  I put the loss of the star down to Thompson's move to Bangkok as Michelin seems to automatically downgrade if there are major changes. I read an interview in which he said that he looked forward to opening in Bangkok because in London it was always difficult to get a consistent supply of the right ingredients. Hope to get down to Bangkok to try his new place later this year.

                2. re: Samuelinthekitchen

                  Fellow Hound on the China/SE-Asia board, mikey3311, dined at Nahm Bangkok a few days ago, and his photos posted on his Facebook account looked absolutely INCREDIBLE! Better than anything I had in Nahm London - I guess David Thompson knew he had to up the bar when serving Thai cuisine to discerning Bangkok gourmands.

                  Halkin St, London, England SW1X 7, GB

        2. Yauatcha now do a £14.44 per person (for two) set lunch from 3-6pm on weekdays called 'Taste of Yauatcha'. You get a selection of 8 dishes which come in pairs instead of the standard three, but they don't fob you off with inferior dishes (you get the scallop shui mai and the venison puff, among others). If you order some extra dishes a la carte you could eat a very reasonably priced lunch there.

          6 Replies
          1. re: emusinthezone

            That's interesting. i have a problem with their poor service and thought they are over-priced. but the set menu price sounds cheap, even for chinatown price... I wonder what else are on the menu?

            1. re: Winkypedia

              Yeah - 'reasonably priced' and 'Yauatcha' aren't usually two words that go together, but the set-menu is very, very cheap considering. I can tell you exactly what's on the menu if you like:

              Baked venison puff
              Three style mushroom cheung fun
              Roasted duck pumpkin puff
              Chicken taro croquette
              Scallop shui mai
              Crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin
              Har gau
              Glass wrap dumpling

              They come out in stages - the four boiled dim sum, then the three fried, then the cheung fun. When I was there they had the prawn and beancurd cheung fun instead of the three mushroom, which is actually even better. Service was fine, if over-attentive, and they didn't want to give me tea ceremony on a cheap tea even though I know they do it, but otherwise it was nothing that came close to ruining the meal.

              1. re: emusinthezone

                Sounds good. Traditionally, dishes like baked venison puff, cheung fun, pumpkin puff, croquette and dumplings are served in a portion of 3 pieces. Dishes like siu mai and Har gau are served in 4 pieces. was it how they serve? Or have they cut down the quantity to keep the price low?

                1. re: Winkypedia

                  No, as I said they come in pairs which is why you should order a few dishes a la carte if you don't want to leave hungry.

            2. re: emusinthezone

              How many people eat lunch from 3-6?? Maybe the low cost is to keep the restaurant busy all day long?

              1. re: zuriga1

                Oh almost certainly. It was practically empty when I ate there but it's ideal if you have a silly eating schedule and don't mind an early dinner or late lunch, or if you don't actually have a job (doubly ideal for me).

            3. I will be coming to London in 2 weeks and your review intrigued me so I went on the L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon website but could not find anything regarding the 2 course or 3 course meals for 22 and 27 Pounds. Was this a lunch deal? Do you know if the menu is available to see online? Is this deal offered everyday?

              L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
              West St, London, Greater London WC2H 8, GB

              3 Replies
              1. re: bakerboyz

                The menu is available online. It sounds like a good deal but be VERY careful if you go off piste, it adds up pretty quickly!

                1. re: pj26

                  i cant link to it, due to the website being weird, but the menu is there... if you go to http://www.joel-robuchon.net/ then restaurants/london/l'atelier/menus and look at the lunch deal or the pre-theatre one

                  1. re: t_g

                    i love the lunch deal at atelier. i always add in one extra small dish off the a la carte and it's usually a belting experience. the only further point i'd make is, like any restaurant of this calibre, the wine can also do damage - if i recall rightly by the glass starts at around the £10 mark. if budget is a concern caution is required there too.

              2. I can strongly support all the Yauatcha recommendations. I'm quite a hungry young twentysomething and the £14.44 menu was more than enough food at the time. The pumpkin puff was one of the most enjoyable things I've tasted of that type for quite some time.

                Another that hasn't been mentioned here is Arbutus. £16.95 for a three-course lunch is exceptional value. Obviously there are no langoustines or turbot on that menu but my companion and I thought 5/6 of the courses we had between us were really excellent and as we were on lunchtime water we paid less than £40.

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