The Berkeley Hotel,
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge
London, SW1X 7RL
Tel. 020 7107 8844
Food type: French Bistro
Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner
Every year, when the Michelin guide for London is published, I quietly shake my head in dismay at the fact a handful of very deserving restaurants continue to be shunned the recognition they fully deserve. There are a lot of lesser restaurants which have a puzzling star to their name while places like the Ritz and Koffmann’s continue to be ignored. This is even more strange with Koffmann’s, since Pierre was a former 3 Michelin starred chef and the red guide has often been criticised as being a bit of an “Old boys club”, rewarding restaurants of chefs already with Michelin stars. One has to wonder what the restaurant or chef has done to annoy the tire man.
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon where we decided to head to Koffmann’s for a nice Sunday lunch prior to a spot of shopping at Harrods. Along their regular a la carte menu, the restaurant also offers a fair few plat du jour or daily specials. Most of these dishes were designed to be shared between two people – whole turbot, rib of beef and beef wellington to name but a few. Of course some of Pierre’s famed classics have remained on the menu since opening day.
We kicked off our meal with a glass of champagne and some excellent nibbles in the form of some pissaladière – think of it as a French style pizza topped off with carefully caramelised onions with the saltiness of the anchovies having amalgamated into the topping. I also adore any restaurant which makes their own bread, and they offer up a lovely selection of home-made bread. Just make sure you don’t over indulge in the bread!
On a previous visit, I tried Koffmann’s signature squid bolognaise. This is a dish which is now often copied with the tagliatelle made from squid which had been finely sliced to resemble beautiful, silky strands of pasta before being gently poached so that it remains tender. The ragu is made with more squid and some of its offal. This is a lovely dish which has truly stood the test of time.
Eschewing his classics on this visit for some of his newer creations, a dish of scallop and squid featured a juicy, plump scallop which had been cooked with the utmost care. The scallop had a perfectly caramelised and crispy crust but still remained tender on the inside. More impressively, the squid itself was non-chewy and the tentacles received a completely different treatment having been deep-fried. I could easily eat a whole bowl of deep-fried squid tentacles! The accompaniments on the plate were there as a support act to allow the seafood to shine through.
I don’t think you can come to Koffmann’s without talking about his famed stuffed pig’s trotters. This is a dish which takes a lowly, humble ingredient and is transformed by the chef’s skill to one which is transcendent. The pig’s trotter is carefully deboned so as to keep the skin and shape intake before it is stuffed with sweetbreads and morels and braised until the skin obtains a soft, almost gelatinous texture. It is served with plenty of rich, unctuous cooking sauce and a small dollop of mash. Simplicity at its greatest!
This time around, we opted for the British classic of Beef Wellington. The French would of course try to claim it as their own – calling it Filet de bouef en croute maybe? Irregardless of the origin of this dish, the version served here was flawlessly executed with the puff pastry casing, thin and crisp. You won’t find any soggy bottoms here for sure. Koffmann’s twist here is to encase the fillet of beef with a combination of spinach and mushroom duxelle. As you would expect from a restaurant of this caliber, the beef’s cooking was flawless.
Pretty full at this stage, I could still muster up some room for one of my all time favourite desserts – Œufs à la neige. A cylinder of poached meringue sat proudly afloat a pool of custard. For me, the star of the dish was the custard and thankfully, the restaurant were generous with the amount of custard. Whilst not as good as the version served at Robuchon au Dome, this was nevertheless a good rendition of the classic dish.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal here. It still puzzles me that, having had a couple of meals here, Koffmann’s does not have a Michelin star. Judging from the quality of cooking alone, there are plenty of other restaurants in London (and around the world) with a star that are less deserving. I doubt Koffmann loses any sleep over this though since he is able to do what he loves doing – cook the food he enjoys eating while mentoring a new generation of chefs. If you have never tried Koffmann’s then this is a place you should go at least once, if only to try some of the classic dishes that the great maestro is still capable of.