With restaurants already established in Montpellier, Avignon, Tokyo and Bangkok, Jacques and Laurent Pourcel decided to bring their style of cuisine to London, and in December 2004, along with business partner Olivier Chteau, opened W'Sens in 800sqm of space over three floors in Waterloo Place.
The bar and main dining area take up the ground floor, with a mezzanine level above providing extra dining space. On the lower ground floor is the engine room, otherwise known as the kitchen.
The W'Sens menu was to follow the same principles as the brothers' other Compagnie des Comptoirs restaurants in encompassing four sections: vegetables, southern French cuisine, Far Eastern cuisine, and desserts. Two companies were brought on board to create the kitchen to deliver this: Hansens Kitchen Equipment, for the overall design and installation of the kitchen, and Signature FSE, UK agents for a new name in the bespoke cooking suite manufacturing business, Athanor. Athanor was set up by Djamel Debousse, who branched out on his own after many years' experience in the manufacture of cooking suites.
The Athanor suite is the heart of the kitchen and conforms wholeheartedly to the idea that less is more. Measuring 2,950mm by 1,400mm, the suite has dispensed with the multitude of kit sometimes incorporated in bespoke suites in favour of a few well-thought-out and versatile components. And there are no over-shelves, ensuring chef can see the 15-strong brigade from every point in the kitchen.
For a better working environment, salamanders were also omitted from the suite and placed elsewhere in the kitchen to avoid heat directly in the face of the chefs, and the flue rises from the suite high into the ventilation canopy to take away the exhaust gas.
One side of the suite is dedicated to the fish section, with a bank of Williams under-counter refrigerators with stainless-steel worktops opposite, on which sits the Roller Grill salamander used for grilling lobster packed full of butter and sprinkled with fleur de sel. An Osborne fish fridge is within easy reach near by.
Apart from the addition of a cast-iron oven, the opposite side of the suite mirrors the first and forms the meat section, also with under-counter fridges and worktops behind and meat fridges, by Williams, to one end. Near by is one of the kitchen's two Rational combi-ovens for roasting bones and slow-cooking meat. Yet more fridges and worktops sit to the right of the suite, forming the garde manger area, which takes its supplies from a Foster coldroom situated outside the kitchen.
Beyond the meat fridges lies the dishwash area, furnished with a Hobart machine to which dirty dishes from the mezzanine level are delivered by way of a hoist. A second hoist adjacent to the pass at the other end of the cooking suite lifts the plated dishes up to the waiting diners. The pass, with hot cupboards underneath and a JTech ServAlert buzzer system for communication between kitchen and front of house, separates the main kitchen from the pastry area.
The pastry section offers plenty of worktop space for head pastry chef Nicholas Munos and includes an expanse of marble on which to prepare delicacies such as warm chocolate and raspberry spring rolls. Most of the desserts go into a Williams blast chiller to take their temperature down in minutes. The section is further equipped with a Carpigiani ice-cream machine, an induction hob for sauces such as custard cream, and a Panasonic microwave for chocolate. Mixers include a Kitchen Aid for small recipes, a Hobart for emulsions and a Sammic dough mixer used for traditional pain de campagne and focaccia, which is served with anchoyade, a tapas dip of tuna, anchovies and goats' cheese.
|!kitchen-suite_100x100.jpg](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/3tZZRCr0R2meOUxLIW6H)||The top of the suite is 9mm thick in total and made up of a 3mm-thick primary top constructed of stainless steel (for longevity), chrome (for a polished finish), titanium alloy (which expands and contracts for durabilty) and, on the underside, a secondary 6mm top which absorbs excess heat produced by the suite and radiates it throughout the top to give a surface temperature of 60-80°C for holding sauces and resting products.|
|![worksurface_100x100.jpg](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/xze2BapfT5u1AOcIY8un)||At one end sit two double Plaque Athenors (planchas), which are used as an electric solid top for pans or as a direct cooking surface for meat, fish and items such as cannelloni of confit lamb. The plate is constructed from non-porous steel rather than cast iron so as not to absorb ils an fats. Each plancha has two seperate heat zones, each with its won control knob, and offers the flexibilty required by the different needs of the morning mise en place and service, whiere more precise cooking temperatures are needed. A channell of water around the planchas stops carbon build-up and reduces cleaning time. The steel surface is cleaned with distilled vinegar|
|![wokburner_100x100.jpg](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/IH3WAAuSR2cTKrZYcF9l)||There are just two open burners, designed so the gas comes out of the slits and creates a vortex with air drawn in so the flame sppins and focuses heat on the centre of the pan base rather than lapping up the sides. Wok adapters instantly transform the burners into wok burners for dishes such as wok-fried squid with chilli, spring onion and clery emulsion. A water well catches anything that boils over.|
|![cooking-plate_100x100.jpg](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/cTpunwkYQ7CF2BomFsYU)||Below each of the two 900m-long by 500mm-deep cast-iron cooking plates sits a 12kW burner, offset from the centre so the main heat is at one end (450°C at the bull's-eye) and graduated from 250-275°C through the rest of the solid top. Also incorporated are points where air enters and exits, so fresh air is drawn through the solid top for maximum heat generation.|
|![gastronorm-size-ovens_100x100.jpg](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/f67KPfQrT62yW6tROgnD)||Because 2/1 gastronorm-size ovens are usually positioned so they are deeper than they are wide, they often present the problem of pans getting pushed right back out of reach during a busy service when used as a finishing oven. this oven, however, is positioned so it is 2/1 wide and 1/1 deep and so fits more trays across during service which are easier to take out. It will also take 6/4 pastry trays.|
|![combi-oven_100x100.jpg||To one side of the pastry section is the second combi-oven, used for cooking desserts, and two single-basket Lincat ftyers used for things like spring rolls and tempura prawns.|