Pigs trotterMore pictures
The story of Pierre Koffmann’s professional life reads like a film script, or at least an interesting novel. A French chef who has worked most of his professional life in the UK, has worked with and trained what seem like all the best/famous chefs in the country, achieved mass critical acclaim but stopped it all once his wife died but who recently, after working in a pop-up on-top of Selfridges for a couple of months, came to the conclusion that he still loves cooking and has re-opened; cooking a large amount of the dishes that made him famous the first time around. Seriously, it’s a film that I would watch.
Unfortunately for me while most of this was going on I was either not in London or preparing my University dissertation. I knew about the pop-up on Selfridges but for some reason or other decided that it wasn’t for me. On seeing pictures of his classic pigs trotter dish I knew I had made an error, and it was an error that I wanted to rectify.
Situated on the ground floor of The Berkley Hotel, Koffmann’s new(ish) venture is in a light and airy space with an adjoining bar area. Sitting in the middle of the it didn’t give me a real feeling as to how big it really is but I did get plenty of eavesdropping opportunities with there being a fairly large proportion of business-men on business trips mixed in with guests at the hotel and, I would like to think, normal folk like me who wanted some ‘trottery’ action.
As I may have mentioned bread and butter is a real weakness of mine and on sitting I was presented with a very generous bowl of assorted breads and butter to tuck into as I waited for my orders to arrive. As I knew I was going to be eating some fairly old-skool Koffmann dishes I started the meal with one of his newer creations of squid bolognese, a dish described to me by my waiter as “his way of taking the micky out of the Italians by taking their classic dish and totally changing it up”. The twist, and not obvious from the picture, is that the ‘pasta’ here is actually thin strips of squid. Perfectly cooked the squid had all the properties of al-dente pasta but gives the dish an added salty punch and rich taste when paired with a pork ragu on top. Having spag bol for a starter is also a happy memory for me as I remember doing the exact same thing many years ago with mum and dad while being treated to Pizza Hut before watching the years Christmas panto in at the Bath Theatre Royal.
Already with a smile on my face I sat in anticipation for the trotter. I was the first in for service so while the place was now getting busy no one had been sent mains yet so I hadn’t seen any being delivered. Having seen trotters on market stalls they aren’t the prettiest things so I was wondering how it might end up looking on a plate here; the answer to that is delicious. Deep umber in colour and topped with an equally dark sauce with a good sized bit of mash on the side; all thoughts of anemic white and hair covered pig feet were removed from mind. Stuffed with sweetbreads and morels the taste combination packed rather a punch with strong earthy mushrooms, rich sweet meat surrounded by unctuous pig fat and topped with that deep meaty tasting sauce. Was it worth all these years of anticipation? Yes it certainly was. Also, all main course dishes are served with chips (something not advertised on the menu) – double potato might be a bit too much for some, especially if you’ve toped up on side dishes, something to keep in mind if like me you’re not a fan of wastage.
The cheese trolley is rather impressive and by this time of night I had seen and smelt is being wheeled around the place to know what I was going to get in there. Being allowed to choose 6 felt generous and the waiter was very knowledgable about things. They also allowed me some more bread to eat with it opposed to the standard thin crackers; I’m going to try this out again whenever I have cheese as at least for me, bread and cheese is a far better combo than cheese and crackers.
I had another Koffmann classic for pudding of pistachio souffle and pistachio ice-cream. It was perfectly done, proud and upstanding even under the weight of a scoop of ice-cream on-top. Knowing by this time I had already eaten a fairly substantial meal this was a perfect second pudding (note, it would also be a perfect first pudding) as the souffle was as light as feather after breaking through the crisp top layer. Looking back at my years eating so far I’ve had a pleasing number of good souffles but, so far this has been the best.
With all the history behind Koffmann’s I loved the calm, relaxed atmosphere that the waiting staff created. Business men on business trips aside it feels like a place that people go to eat rather than be seen and I certainly left feeling pleasantly full and certainly fed well. If I had a gripe about the venue it would be that the seating process is a bit weird but I don’t think this is helped by it’s two entrances. People who come in off the street go to reception and it’s all fine but those coming through the hotel ask at door, get walked across the dining room to speak to reception before either getting seated or walking back through the dining room to go somewhere else. It felt a bit hectic; though of cause that’s a gripe and not a big criticism. The food was ace, and that’s what you’re here for.Tweet