French food is alive and well in London. After this visit, we visited the restaurant once again in February 2012. You can read about that visit in my blog Koffmann revisited.
Pierre Koffmann, a 61 year old Frenchman has returned to open and head his own restaurant `Koffmann’ in June 2010 after closing his legendary La Tante Claire in 2003. Koffmann first worked with the Roux Brothers and went on to become Head Chef at their Waterside Inn at Bray way back in the early 1970’s. The Waterside Inn has been a 3 Michelin Star restaurant for several years. Bray today has another 3 Michelin Star restaurant, the English Molecular Gastronomy temple Fat Duck.
Koffmann left the Waterside Inn to establish La Tante Claire. Here he came into his own and soon got the requisite 3 Michelin Stars. At first he only employed French staff; he later relented and went on to mentor a roll call of younger English Chefs. Michel Roux Jr., Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Tom Kitchin, Marcus Waering are all his protégés. Koffmann also created a dish which has assumed legendary status. Pied De Cochon Aux Morilles [Pigs Trotter stuffed with Sweetbreads and Morels].
The restaurant is located at the Berkeley Hotel at Knightsbridge. We had made reservations from Mumbai 2 months ago and received email confirmations, but when we got there, the receptionist could not find our reservation in the system! After a brief moment of trauma we were whisked to a table while the receptionist investigated.
The Queen of Kutch started with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rose and I had an aperitif which was Champagne, Armagnac and Orange Peel. Very nice.
We were served some brilliant bread. A Garlic Brioche and a standard mini Battard. As a complementary snack we were given a version of a Pissaladiere. I say version as this one had the lightest Puff Pastry and just caramelised onion. No Olives and no Anchovies. Nice, but not impressive.
We ordered our starters. The Queen had Galette De Foie Gras Aux Pommes [Foie Gras with Apple] and I had Boudin Gascon, Darphin Et Figues [Gascony-style black pudding with Darphin potato & fig chutney]. Both were brilliant. The Apples in the Foie Gras dish were caramelised and crisp and my Boudin was just cooked, still gooey. The Foie Gras dish was sweet, savoury, sour and melting in texture. My Boudin had a super crisp Pomme Darphin and strip of Bacon while the Boudin itself was, as I have said, gooey.
By this time our Aperitifs had run dry so we got ourselves a bottle of Brouilly to wash down our main courses.
There was just so much that we wanted to eat, but we had to focus and narrow down our choices. The Queen wanted to have the Pied De Cochon Aux Morilles [Pigs Trotter stuffed with Sweetbreads and Morels] which I would have had, so I had a Tournedos Rossini.
The Pied De Cochon Aux Morilles was absolutely a work of art. The trotter is boiled, the meat removed and then stuffed with an absolutely smooth Chicken Mousseline. Morels and Sweetbreads also go into the trotter. When it’s presented, there is no indication of the fact that the trotter is stuffed. The cut is on the bottom and the stuffing is absolutely brilliantly cooked. This came with a glorious mash potato. This was probably one of those legendary 50% potato 50% butter creations, so smooth and so full of a potato flavour. It really tasted like potato. This dish was a real masterpiece.
The Tournedos Rossini is something I had as an adolescent at the Rendezvous when it functioned as French Restaurant at the top of the Bombay Taj. This is a dish that was created by Augustine Escoffier for a French Composer Gioachino Rossini. This is a Fillet Steak placed on a piece of fried bread, some spinach and topped with Foie Gras. The garnish is Truffles and the sauce is reduced Madeira and stock. This was brilliant. The smells coming from this really got your gastric juices going.
Quite honestly, this was the best French food either of us has ever eaten. It narrowly beat Le Gavaroche and certainly beat Restaurant Paul Bocuse. Mind you, I am saying the best French Food, not the best Restaurant. Yes the Tournedos Rossini is a tired old boring dish but this was really good. The pigs trotters was the work of a master.
We simply had to have the desserts so I had the Pistachio Soufflé with Pistachio Ice Cream while the Queen ordered a Tart Au Citron and a glass of Calvados. The Soufflé was perfect. It had risen evenly, was evenly browned on the sides with caramelised butter and had a delightful texture. However, it had a fair amount of what I thought was artificial Pistachio essence. That was sad. The Pistachio Ice Cream had the same problem. Brilliant texture but distinctly artificial flavour. The Tart Au Citron was also a disappointment. Great lemon curd but a slightly soggy base.
This was all in all, non sophisticated, old style French food. No fancy garnish, no tricky emulsions and no ambitious deserts. The food was brilliantly executed with good ingredients and top class cooking. The desserts though were a disappointment.
The service was relaxed and charming but brutally efficient. Just the way it should be.
Go here, have a great meal, go elsewhere for desserts. Really good food.
|Boudin Gascon, Darphin Et Figues|
|Galette De Foie Gras Aux Pommes|
| Pied De Cochon Aux Morilles|
[The roundels are crisp Crackling]
|See the truffles|
|Pistachio Souffle with the Ice Cream|
|Tart Au Citron with Lime Sorbet|