Pierre Koffmann. It's a name which, in culinary circles at least, induces the kind of tooth-whistling veneration the Olivers and Ramsays of this world can only dream of. For a man who, two years ago, threw the towel in at his 2 Michelin starred eaterie La Tante Claire to quite literally go fishing, Koffmann has made a bad show of retirement, last year opening a pop-up eaterie on the top floor of Selfridges - which stands as one of the city's best temporary restaurants thus far - and earlier this year announcing a new eponymous venture, which opened in London's Berkeley Hotel at the end of last month.
Koffmann's - all pale wood flooring, creamy walls and off-white table settings - is sumptuous, low-lit and very very big. So far, so Knightsbridge. We were sat directly opposite the kitchen, which made for an energetic dining experience. The flashes of Koffmann's perfectly coiffed white head dashing past gave the term "master at work" new meaning. Plates were presented as impeccably as the waiters, whose knowledge of both the dishes and the very reasonable wine list (glasses start from £6 and bottles £19) made us feel very well cared for indeed.
We began our culinary tour-de-force on a fishy note, with a glistening wedge of marinated mackrel terrine which combined sweet and savoury notes with expected savoir-faire. Followed by a springy fresh crab salad which, despite it's considered appearance, acted only as a well-dressed buffer to two superior dishes. Koffmann's signature scallops in squid ink were sublime, the treacly bitterness of the ink bouncing against the sweetness of the scallops.
Unable - and unwilling -to decide between the score of hearty French mains on offer, we went for a selection - helped along by our wonderful head waitress Julie - which included the evening's special of duck breast accompanied by a rich, meltingly sweet duck confit - which, in all its fatty extravagance was simply delicious. Lobster Thermidor was cooked to fleshy perfection, though the curried tang of the sauce was slightly off key. The star of the show, Koffmann's pig's trotters stuffed with sweetbreads and morels had us puzzled at first. Heads saying no, hearts saying yes - that kind of thing. The bronzed hoof won us round in the end however, the sweetbreads, morels and chicken mousse conjuring a dense, earthy flavour - even if the the gelatinous outer skin proved a little too much.
The towering pistachio souffle, another of Koffmann's signature dishes, was pleasantly savoury, though its vaguely synthetic flavour made for an unusual close to the meal.
Pleasantly stuffed, perfectly sozzled and really rather pleased with ourselves, we toddled off into the night as the kitchen closed its doors- discussing the evening's duck at length and whistling Koffmann's name between our teeth.
Words by Teo van den Broeke
Koffmann's is now open at The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton PlaceKnightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL. 020 7235 1010. www.the-berkeley.co.uk/koffmanns