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Koffmann's @The Berkeley

Friday, 10 September 2010

Pierre Koffmann. Who? Apologies, Koffmann is a name unfamiliar to me, a little before my time. Still, I heard enough good stuff from Kavey and Gourmet Traveller to instigate a reservation here.

  • Previous 3 starred head chef of La Tante Claire at Royal Hospital Road which he then sold the property to Gordon Ramsay (yeah, that one) in 2003.
  • Ironically, the current site of Koffman’s is Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café at the Berkeley Hotel which closed in early 2010.
  • Worked with the Roux brothers at Le Gavroche** and was head chef at Waterside Inn*** (not so much love).

So we turned up at noon on a beautiful Sunday to Koffman’s at the Berkeley Hotel and were promptly shown into the brand new restaurant. It is remarkably spacious despite having 120 covers; the tables were well spaced and sufficiently large to accommodate plates and elbows. The décor is fairly muted with the occasional large photographs of ingredients (I had a bowl of apples in front of me) and some flowers scattered throughout. There was also a bar with a bookcase across it (rather weird combination for me) in the middle of the restaurant.

An amuse-bouche of filo pastry topped with olives and onions soon appeared. It was fairly disappointing, being quite mild in flavour and the flavours itself weren’t particularly impressive either. Not a good start.

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A basket of bread soon appeared, mostly sour dough. Although not made in-store today, apparently that will soon change once everything gets running in full swing. Nice and warm, the bread was pretty decent but the soft light butter upstaged it.

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Snails, girolles, garlic and mashed potatoes”.

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WB: What’s that at the bottom?
Pig: Mashed potatoes.
WB: Can’t be. It’s so light, like a mousse, almost airy. Doesn’t feel like potato at all.

But oh yes it was, with the soft tender morsels of snails accented with garlic. The green foam topping was made of parsley although the taste isn’t really evident. Still a good starter though, great to eat.

Potted foie gras with baguette”. The terrine was nice and rich with lots of foie taste. However, the baguette was a change from the usual toasted bread which I’m a bit undecided on whether it’s good or not. The density of the baguette attempted to dwarf the taste of the terrine at times and it was actually pretty filling as well. Accompanying the terrine were little cubes of rather insignificant jelly.

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Pig’s trotter stuffed with sweetbreads & morels”.

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One of Koffman’s signature dishes, this is not something for the faint of heart (or anyone with a significant cardiovascular risks). I got a funny thing about braised trotters – I love the porky goodness and inevitable gooey sauce the cooking produces, but I can’t stand the inevitable fats of the dish.

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We normally swap plates at the halfway stage but I could only stomach a mouthful before needing to trade plates back; whilst I can appreciate the soft bubbly fat and the sweetbread filling inside, together in combination they proved far too much for me. The PigPig however, a true fan of the fats, absolutely loved this dish especially the rich thick gravy. The mashed potatoes were also incredibly rich and creamy but unlike Robuchon’s, also very buttery which can be a good or bad thing; myself I preferred Robuchon’s version.

Roasted rabbit with Dijon mustard”. Although cooked a little bit more than I would have preferred, it still remained fairly tender. We were told the filling was of chicken liver and morels but to be honest it tasted more like mince pork to us. Still, the jus was full of flavour and I enjoyed the entire dish although the mustard was quite mild as well. The vegetables scattered about the plate served its purpose to distract me and provide different tastes/textures without being particularly interesting.

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Three side dishes were provided as well. The French fries were truly outstanding being crunchy on the outside but fluffy on the inside despite being so skinny. The broccoli was overcooked to me while I found the last plate of carrots and peas too buttery although the PigPig quite liked it.

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Pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice-cream”. Despite being warned there would be a 20 minute wait for the soufflé, we couldn’t resist ordering another of Koffman’s signature dishes. The extra large soufflé had lots of pistachio flavour and weirdly what felt like marzipan as well. The accompanying ice cream was also great, but unfortunately melted fairly rapidly.

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Champagne bombe with Guinness sorbet”. A ball of Guinness sorbet, wrapped in champagne ice cream, topped with champagne sorbet, all sitting on a layer of champagne jelly – does this not sound awesome? My only wish is for more of the jelly although I suppose it could have been a bit too filling if more was present.

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We finished off with a cup of filtered coffee. More to the PigPig’s interest was the petit fours of rose macaron, bitter chocolate fudge and rose marshmallow.

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Altogether the bill came up to £55 per person for a three course meal each, a cup of coffee and tap water. It only opened 3 weeks (and 2 days) on the day of our visit (08/08/10) and as our waitress explained, they were still working out some kinks. We didn’t really notice any such issue during our visit though as service throughout was prompt and attentive.

The staff also seemed quite friendly and seemed quite keen for feedback on the food; we didn’t advertise that we were bloggers but it’s a bit hard to hide a DSLR at times. We were invited to have a peep at the open plan kitchen to see Monsieur Koffman at work although we were advised it’s probably best not to disturb him while he was busy (fair enough, I don’t like being disturbed at work by random strangers either). Apparently he’ll be present in the kitchen overseeing pretty much everything for the opening period of this restaurant.

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Food – 8.0
Service – 6.5
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 4.0

Impressed? Quite. In my opinion Koffman’s is on par with most of the other high end restaurants I’ve been to so far (not an exhaustive list by any means).

Best bit: champagne sorbet with jelly.
Worst bit: not being able to stomach the fat on fat dish of pig’s trotter. Luckily the PigPig didn’t mind not sharing it.

The Berkeley
Wilton Place
T: +44 (0)20 7235 6000
Official website
Koffmann's on Urbanspoon

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