Beluga masterclass at L’Atelier de Joël for London Cocktail Week
There are worse places to find yourself on a rainy afternoon than L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon on West Street. A moodily lit, sumptuously furnished, double Michelin-star restaurant owned by one of the world’s top chefs. The salon bar had been taken over by premier Russian vodka makers Beluga in what initially appeared to be a cocktail-making class, but in reality was a platform to display their high quality products in a setting equal to their intended image.
Beluga had three different types of vodka on offer ranging from the triple filtered Noble, priced at £40 per bottle, to the super premium Gold, which our host informed us should sell at a bar for £100 for 50ml. With such price tags applied, expectations were great.
The first cocktail – the signature Beluga Sling – proved to be somewhat of a let-down. Made primarily with kiwi fruit, it was visually pleasing, but it hadn’t been strained well and left a pulpy mess in the glass that ruined its presentation. The lime juice was overwrought and practically crushed the crème de peche, making the taste an uncomplimentary mix of bitter and sour.
The next offering, a rare chance to try a deliciously smooth, ice-cold Vesper Martini, more than redeemed this. A drink invented by Ian Fleming’s James Bond in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, a good quality Vesper will set you back around £300 in today’s top cocktail bars. The aromatic Kina Lillet that is used to create the dryness that offsets the gin and vodka wasn’t present here (it’s not made any more) but its more affordable sibling Lillet Blanc did the job well. The vodka used was the Beluga Transatlantic, which was subtle and creamy, though whether it lives up to its £95 price tag is debatable.
The restaurant kitchen served some most welcomed canapés to complement the drinks, and the star of these was a soft-boiled quail’s egg nestled in a rice pastry basket topped off with caviar, which was rich, nicely textured and tasted heavenly. A few more treats from the restaurant wouldn’t have gone amiss, but then this was a showcase of quality drink, not award-winning food.
Though this was a small event, it was open to the public, and one or two attendees had secured a place simply by emailing the organisers on the off chance. Anyone who had paid £10 for a London Cocktail Week wristband was also eligible to attend, making this a worthwhile event, and a chance to taste some superior drinks that might otherwise be outside of their price range.
For further information about London Cocktail Week and future events visit their website here.