People eat at Koffmann’s to pay homage. They pay homage to the man, Pierre Koffmann a previous three star Michelin chef, and they pay homage to the dish, Koffman’s stuffed pig’s trotter. Famously Koffmann retired but was tempted back to the stoves in a basement restaurant at the Berkley hotel bearing his name. The room feels understated if somewhat unadventurous. Carefully arranged black and white photographs hang on the walls, the tables are linen clad and well spaced and the colour scheme is predominantly beige. The atmosphere is hushed and almost luxurious in its anonymity.
Cocktails at the bar seemed a good way to kick things off and the bar tender was knowledgeable recommending a rose martini for me and a gin sling for my friend Tim. Then we headed down to our table nestled in a carmel leather banquette against the wall for an amuse bouche of tartare of veal tongue. I liked the way Koffmann went straight for the offal from the start and was brave enough to eschew a more prosaic but crowd pleasing offering as an amuse.
The sense that our meal was going to be like a reunion tour of greatest hits from a once legendary band is heightened when our waiter points out Koffmann’s signature dishes on the menu. He said we had to try the scallop starter (£16) so we did, after all I always hope that bands play their old stuff and not their new stuff. Thinly sliced with a faint backpacker tan from the pan the scallops were gussied up with a smear of pureed potatoes and midnight black pools of squid ink. Perhaps it is an old dish but it still felt interesting and contemporary. However, a starter of ham and pears (£10) which does exactly what it says on the tin was a little austere for my tastes.
Ham and pear
There were no such austerity issues with the dish Koffmann is most famous for, the stuffed pigs trotter (£28). It must be once of the most over the top main courses I have ever encountered. The huge gelatinous trotter was stuffed with morels and sweetbreads and teamed with rich, creamy mash. While I appreciated the sheer beauty and the brilliant expertise behind the trotter, for me the texture of each of the elements of the dish was too similar and the whole dish too rich and overpowering. The beef cheeks (£24) also went straight for the jugular with more of the same big flavours. The cheeks were braised to a point of melting, almost sticky tenderness and were paired with smooth pureed mash and a rich sauce. There was room here too for slightly lighter dishes such as the rabbit roulade (£24) which was drizzled with a delicately flavoured sauce and scattered with fresh peas.
Despite the opportunity to try more of Koffmann’s classics from the dessert menu we went straight for that all time classic the cheese trolley. The trolley was one of the best I have seen in London with a well kept and interesting array of cheeses (£13 a plate) which were all helpfully labelled, saving the waiter from having to explain each cheese to the whole table. In what seems to be a new and welcome trend in London our post meal coffees wee served with a plate of madelines served piping hot from the oven. Oh so French and oh so good.
The cheese platter
The wine list was also quite interesting and deserves a mention as again, flying the flag for Koffmann’s homeland it was an entirely French list. The list itself did not give much guidance but the sommelier pointed us in the direction of the Ventoux Fayard from Domaine de Fondréche 2009 (£32). This medium bodied red with berry notes worked well with the food we ordered but lacked a bit of complexity and depth of flavour.
I’m glad I went to Koffmann’s to pay homage to both the man and the dish. The cooking was exquisite and the service friendly and solicitous. The only down side was the lack of atmosphere. It may have been Koffmann’s reputation preceding him but I did feel a little like we were eating in a hushed gastro-shrine
Details: Koffmann’s, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge SW1X 7RL (Ph 020 7235 1010) Tube: Knightsbridge
Damage: Budget breaking. Our bill for three people came to £203.