The late Joel Robuchon is often remembered for his mashed potato, with its 2:1 potato-to-butter ratio. But the most-starred chef in the Michelin Guide’s history also pioneered a new style of dining at his intimate restaurants, with counter seating overlooking the kitchen – a format that has been much copied and now stylishly revived at the newly opened Le Comptoir in Mayfair.
“We wanted to evolve the signature L’Atelier palette of black, white and red using more classic tones,” explains interior designer James Thurstan Waterworth, the former European designer director at Soho House and founder of London studio Thurstan. He selected handmade bar stools in a sumptuous burnt-orange velvet to contrast with the monochrome mosaic floor and marble dining counter, which runs the length of the space, then added a warm glow with bespoke Italian alabaster lighting throughout.
“The design reflects the focal point of Robuchon’s restaurants: the food,” says Thurstan Waterworth. “We placed mirrors above the kitchen counter, so that those sitting at the banquet-table seating can also watch the chefs at work. The beaded panels around the mirrors echo the signature droplet pattern of many of the dishes.”
The menu comprises signature small plates put together by executive chef Jeremy Page, who worked closely with Robuchon for more than a decade at the original L’Atelier in Paris. Here he combines contemporary dishes with Les Eternels, a collection of Robuchon classics such as showstopping starter Les Langoustines, its ravioli parcels steeped in foie gras sauce and offset with fresh savoy cabbage (£26). Meanwhile, Le Maquereau is a beautiful trail of fresh mackerel, kohlrabi discs and lilac flowers with a horseradish cream (£14).
Mains are likewise designed for sharing. Le Turbot is immersed in a rich seaweed butter sauce, with a dollop of caviar (£34); a quintessentially French L’Agneau pairs tiny, tasty lamb chops with aubergine parcels (£39). And, of course, there’s mash. Each main comes with a side of the legendary pomme purée, its impressive stodginess counteracted by the airiest of desserts: Le Soufflé, deliciously laced with hazelnut and honey (£16).