I’ve always been really into French food and French wine. Don’t even get me started on French interiors. I adore French music and I’m currently learning the French language, which I also think is très cool. I’ve got about eight more examples here but I guess you can probably spot the pattern. This French fancy of mine is partly down to countless childhood holidays in the same Southern part of France, but mainly, it’s down to the fact that in my experience, the French just do stuff really, really well. J’adore le French stuff and things.
We recently tried a new place for brunch which has been on our list for God-only-knows how long. Much to our bellies’ delight, it perfectly demonstrated this theory about the French delivering on all levels, especially food. Oh, and interiors. Actually also …Ok, I’ll just get on with telling you about it.
Like most French things I’ve experienced, everything about L’atelier on Kingsland Road in Dalston follows their usual rule of ‘less is more’. The approach here is so simple, you might miss this beautiful little eatery if you blinked on your way past. It’s extremely unassuming, with an un-signposted facade. The only eatery hint you’ll get is the collection of mismatched tables and chairs outside, for diners to make the most of any good weather they might luck out on. It does hold claim, however, to having one of the most beautiful doors in Dalston – an aware I’ve personally appointed them with. It’s in recognition of their wooden panelled front door which has been stripped back, paired down and aged beautifully. Essentially, it reflects the whole vibe of L’atelier; raw, fuss-free and aesthetically awesome.
Escaping from the traffic-heavy main road in Dalston, we immediately felt chilled and at-home. This place breathes calming vibes and will relax the hell out of you, regardless of how hectic a day you’ve had or how fierce your Sunday morning head might feel. We were shown to a table in the window which was the most beautiful set-up of any table I’ve ever seen. It was the Natalie Portman of tables. Sun-bleached wood grain, a vintage jointed desk lamp, a half-burnt down church candle, a single yellow stem in a miniature milk bottle vase, salt and pepper trinkets and our menu; printed on brown parcel paper and attached to a clip board. The food list for breakfast and lunch contained a handful of choices, much to my relief. Too many options on a menu leaves me with my head in my hands at the thought of landing food envy, which hits me hard on a regular basis. We loved the sound of everything. Bacon and rocket omelette with blue cheese and walnuts. Hot croissant with comte cheese, jambon de bayonne, rocket and thyme olive oil. French toast with bacon and maple syrup. I looked up to ask how Tom was doing with the decision and found his head firmly in his hands. I could relate. Everything sounded amazing.
Eventually, I chose the chicken salad with roasted courgettes, feta, pomegranate and cashew nuts and Tom went for the chorizo, roasted peppers and avocado on toast. I’m always really wary about ordering salads in restaurants. I say ‘wary’ – that translates to ‘I ultimately avoid’. The few times I’ve honoured any health binge whilst eating out, a plate of leaves with three pieces of meat and not a great deal of flavour or sustenance has arrived in front of me. I’ve never found salads exciting, that’s for sure – until L’atelier redefined everything I’ve ever felt about restaurant salads. This huge colourful plate of health arrived with an amazingly tasty medley of ingredients and, as Tom phrased it, “a dynamite meat-to-leaf ratio”. The roasted chicken was deliciously juicy and seriously plentiful. Tom had an equally delightful experience with his order and spent a lot of time shaking his head in disbelief and appreciation. We worked our way through every last scrap of food before the owner Benjamin came and sat down to tell us about his place.
The passion and love he applies to L’atelier was very quickly evident. He oversees every detail here, from the interiors to the dishes on the menu to the awesome playlist which accompanied us during our time there. Every aspect has been mulled over, leaving no French leaf unturned. It’s a work of perfection without feeling pretentious. It all works together so well without feeling too arranged. It’s casual and relaxed without being sloppy or half-hearted. It’s totally and utterly French and we both fell hard for this place.
Whilst brunch was amazing, L’atelier is back on our list after Benjamin told us about the way the restaurant changes at night. Lights are low, candles are lit and it’s a calming but chatty dining environment. We’re sold. We’re determined to make this the first of many trips back to L’atelier – for brunches, lunches, dinners and drinks. I’m hoping if I hang out there enough, maybe I’ll pick up the language quicker and can start making people call me Amélie. Or maybe not.