L'Atelier Robuchon in Madrid, the formula for greatness

Do you remember Embassy? The legendary British tea room closed in 2019, after the death of its owner, María Teresa Sarmiento Blanch, and that iconic space on the corner of Ayala and Paseo de la Castellana is now occupied by Robuchon Madrid.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 14:57
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L'Atelier Robuchon in Madrid, the formula for greatness

Do you remember Embassy? The legendary British tea room closed in 2019, after the death of its owner, María Teresa Sarmiento Blanch, and that iconic space on the corner of Ayala and Paseo de la Castellana is now occupied by Robuchon Madrid.

The landing in Madrid of this project comes almost two decades after the admired French chef Joël Robuchon inaugurated in 2003, at the Hotel Pont Royal in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, his first Atelier: an innovative formula, where he reinterpreted his passion for tapas bars acquired after many years of vacationing in Calpe (Alicante), which he later knew how to clone here and there without losing an iota of grandeur.

This standard bearer of the second generation of nouvelle cuisine, who broke the record for Michelin stars in 2016 by accumulating no less than 32 macarrons in all his establishments around the world, left us in 2018 and today the holding company he left behind, Joël Robuchon International (JRI), manages 24 stores on three continents and has decided to finally land in Spain fulfilling an old dream of its founder.

Robuchon Madrid, which is what the invention inaugurated last September is called, houses three different spaces in its 950 m2 decorated in a very Parisian style by the interior design studio of Lázaro Rosa-Violán: L'Atelier, with its gastronomic proposal of French haute cuisine; L'Ambassade with its tea room, its informal menu and its terrace, and Le Speakeasy, a small and charming cocktail bar in the basement with drinks signed by Mario Villalón (Angelita).

At the head of the entire culinary offer is an old acquaintance of the capital's gourmets: chef Jorge González. Trained at the Toulouse hotel school and with experience in various kitchens in the French capital, Jorge became known at the Villa y Corte as Jesús Santos' right-hand man at Goizeko Wellington, before becoming executive chef at the Ritz Hotel for 15 years. A professional and human profile that fits like a glove to the iconic Robuchon recipes.

In the L'Atelier gastronomic dining room, which occupies the first floor and has a direct entrance from Ayala street number 2, the bar with an open kitchen is completed by several lounges with small tables overlooking La Castellana. The Découverte menu (for Discovery) allows you to get started with that concept of casual haute cuisine that the maestro advocated during his last stage for €155 per cover (plus an additional €70 if you request the pairing with wines). And, speaking of wines, as soon as we arrived at the place, we had a very pleasant surprise: David Robledo was waiting for us at the door, one of the most solid sommeliers on the Madrid scene, known above all for his long years at the Santceloni of the long-awaited Santi Santamaría, who is the latest signing of this establishment.

We ordered the tasting menu, we put ourselves in the hands of Robledo for the liquid accompaniment –a trip from the Loire to Burgundy passing through Jerez, David's passion– and lunch thus became a true festival, beginning with the bread, made in the own maison, which arrives in a tempting basket with various types of each more delicious (don't miss trying the croissant with salted butter). Once you get into the situation, the Sologne imperial caviar with king crab and lobster jelly is a perfect example of the refined, meticulous and precise cuisine that made Robuchon one of the greatest chefs in history.

But be careful, the concept of L'Atelier is not exclusively the exaltation of French cuisine and fidelity to unchangeable dishes since, following the founder's teachings, it integrates local techniques and local products into its menu, from artichokes to Tudela or Iberian ham to suckling pig. In this spirit, a little extra that we added to our meal was the red shrimp ramen with espardenyas: a creation by L'Atelier sous-chef Nicolás Leblay Valdés, which is a pure fusion of the Mediterranean and Japan and was the winner in February of the XI Dénia Red Shrimp International Creative Cooking Contest. A dish that justifies the visit by itself!

Continuing with our menu, the cocochas appear on a soft wheat risotto with Parmesan and coral emulsion, which is a kind way of presenting this particular food of ours to the international public. And it is that, let us not forget, in Robuchon Madrid –at least, in its first months of life– there is a large presence of foreign clientele in its chairs. Hence, perhaps, that the statements of the letter follow the tradition of being written first in French.

The grilled scallop in salsify velouté with Parmesan and black truffle that follows is another timeless hit that makes us think of those years when Joël made himself known to the world at the Jamin on rue de Longchamp. As for the grilled turbot on eggplant ratatouille and citrus touches, perfect cooking and nice accompaniment.

When a small platter with the famous Robuchon mashed potatoes arrives on the table, another must-try that you should try sometime in your life –here something short of butter, perhaps so as not to scare the patriotic diner–, it means that we have entered the chapter of the meats And in this aspect, L'Atelier is an unquestionable conservatory in the use of fire and in the finesse of the backgrounds. What a splendid caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras and accompanied by herb salad! For its part, the delicious suckling lamb chops with fresh thyme took me back to my days as a resident on the banks of the Seine, when the Murcian sommelier Antoine Hernández greeted the Murcian sommelier with an everlasting smile behind the bar of the first Atelier.

In the sweet section, Le Parfum des Îles consists of a soft passion fruit cream, coconut mousse and mojito slush that serves to cleanse the taste buds after so many emotions. While, under the name of Mont-Blanc, we get some fluffy chestnut biscuits with their ganache, sorbet and candied mandarin orange, an updated and easy-to-share version of a traditional gâteau of the most wintry French pastries.

If you enjoy food like me, save yourself some of those refined morsels and ask the restaurant's efficient manager, Rebeca Bellido, to order in the kitchen well in advance that glorious whiskey soufflé with its Madagascar vanilla ice cream: another unmissable classic from the high-end restoration that should never be missed and that, in our case, came out perfect.

Outstanding service, extensive wine list full of well-chosen French references, high prices accordingly. Next time I'll look for volunteers to share a sole meunière for two and a suckling veal chop en cocotte, also for two. And I won't stop stopping by the Speakeasy to test my bartending skills!