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|Address:||13-15 West Street, London WC2H 9NE|
|Tel:||020 7010 8600|
|Price: £81.00||Wine: £32.00||Champagne: £79.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm 5.30-10.30pm|
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Our visit to L'Atelier was overall a great gastronomic experience, although it didn't quite meet my, admittedly sky high, expectations. We went for the set lunch, four courses with matching wines (£60). A starter of white asparagus with quail eggs and honeyed pistachio nuts was beautifully delicate. But my second starter, the pate, was not worth the £7 supplement: too rustic, too chunky, with lumps of gelatin and not enough foie gras and with a matching wine which was too flabby to cope. My main of pork belly was delicious, quite salty but flavoursome, with (is there a Michelin restaurant in the world which has resisted froth?!) a light celeriac mousseline. I finished with a william pear on a creamy pot (not unlike the bottom of a creme brulee) chosen mainly because I fancied trying the intriguing Gewurtztraminer from Mendoza and which turned out to be as sweetly drinkable as anything European (who knew?). Swift delivery of the dishes does make it feel a little bit like you're on the lunchtime conveyor belt but we were the last leave so perhaps it was justified in our case. We sat up at the bar stools looking into the kitchen: I love the theatre of it but I wonder if it's just a bit too Yo Sushi, taking away the mystery, diminishing the sense of occasion and making service, with all its reaching over the counter to get to you, feel a little too casual? Decor is a hedonistic mix of moody black and sensual red: a bit incongruous on a sunny lunchtime and no doubt better suited to the evening crowd who, given they'll be ordering from the a la carte menu, must indeed be loaded hedonists (a sneaky peak reveals many more delicious looking options but at an average £17). Service was absolutely excellent, from the refreshingly snooty-free reception and the friendly upstairs bar to our smiley, approachable waiter and the sommelier (who responded to my dislike of the second wine by coming over in person and ensuring I got to try the following wines first, good work). A lovely lunch and not bad value for a taste of 2 Michelin stars but I'd like to come back in the evening, with someone else picking up the bill.