Down a dingy side-street in London’s theatre district is a discreet, black-brick building whose windows glow a faint red. Follow the light inside to a room where waiters slip by like shadows. The proprietor of this establishment is Joël Robuchon, the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world. He earned one of these stars here.
You can see why. Food takes centre-stage at L’Atelier, literally. Diners sit at a counter that looks onto the kitchen; the chefs know their roles, and perform them skilfully and silently. From their attentive hands emerges the first act: burrata with beetroot. The latter comes in slender slices and exotic splashes of colour: carmine, orange, pale yellow, mauve. Wearing sprigs of rocket and pansy like fascinators, it makes an unruly chorus line from one side of the plate to the other, unbroken but for the middle. This spot is owned by the star of the show: a fat disc of burrata. Glistening with oil, glittering with gold leaf, her face is freckled with pepper and she soaks her posterior in a crimson pool of beetroot coulis.
Ease yourself in with a bite of beetroot: it is smooth and supple, yielding an earthy flavour; a tendril of rocket lends a gentle kick. Very good – but you’ve been eyeing up that burrata. Sink your fork into her side and cut off a morsel; the coulis paints its pale flesh first pink, then scarlet. It doesn’t so much slide off your fork as slink. Divested of its liquid red robe, its tender weight melts, almost, onto your tongue. Creamy, with a whisper of salt: this is a big cheese that hits the right spot. Might as well call it a night.