pierre koffmann, restaurant on the roof
I first caught wind of legendary Pierre Koffmann’s pop-up restaurant a mere two days after reservations had opened at the start of the month, but when I called they were already fully booked (except for a few weekday lunch tables). I was sorely disappointed but to my delight a week later, in response to the overwhelming demand, they announced the restaurant’s doors would stay open for another fortnight and we managed to get a Friday dinner seating (the restaurant has now extended again until 28th Nov).
The pop-up, located in a large marquee on the rooftop of Selfridges was created as part of the London Restaurant Festival, and heralds the return of Koffmann after a five year absence. He has roped in a string of seasoned chefs, once part of his brigade at La Tante Claire, including Tom Kitchin, Eric Chavot and Tom Aikens to guest in the kitchen on various nights.
We received a call the previous day to confirm our reservation and were given directions to the restaurant, so upon arriving at Selfridges we headed straight for the lift, discreetly located opposite the Chanel perfume counter. A smartly dressed blonde clutching a clipboard stood at the lift, only allowing us entry after confirming our place on the guest list. Upstairs, we were warmly greeted by name at the reception area and led through a small bar area to the 80-seater restaurant, minimally decorated with hanging bowler hat lights and antler chandeliers.
The tiny table we were sat at was frustratingly located next to an air vent which, in addition to being rather noisy, gave B a bit of chill the entire evening. After making our food and wine selections we were presented with the bread basket (a perfectly adequate collection of sourdough, wholemeal, white and tomato breads) and an amuse-bouche of pissaladière. It was a good rendition of the provençal dish, the puff pastry nice and flaky and the onions atop it, sweet and caramelised. But spectacular it was not, and having read about langoustine bisque and pressed pig’s head amuses on other nights, I was a tad disappointed.
When we were through with the amuse-bouche, it was promptly replaced with our first course. I had the Cocktail of Scottish Lobster and Avocado with a Lemon Jelly, while B chose the Pressed Leeks and Langoustines with a Truffle Vinaigrette. Mine was light and appetising, the lobster perfectly cooked and dressed in a tomato-based cocktail sauce, very pleasant but again not mind-blowing by any means. The leeks in B’s starter however were really quite special, very delicate and scented with lemongrass. We did note however that the portions were rather stingy – there were two measly langoustines on the plate, not what you would expect at £75 a head for three courses.
Throughout our meal, the noisy fan continued to disrupt our conversation and the floorboards constantly shook below us as waiters hurried past, not making for the best of dining experiences. We did momentarily forget about these annoyances as we tucked into our mains of Koffmann’s famed Pig’s Trotters stuffed with Veal Sweetbreads and Morels. I first fell in love with the stuffed trotter many years ago when eating Marco Pierre White’s chicken mousse stuffed version (no doubt inspired by the time he worked for Koffmann) at Mirabelle. These were extraordinary – the glazed trotters, soft and gelatinous yet surprisingly light, the sauce rich and decadent, and the potatoes suitably creamy (although if I were to be picky, a little too solid for a pomme purée). B chose the evening’s wine with this dish in mind – a bottle of Pommard Les Rugiens 2001 from De Courcel, one of Côte de Beaune’s finest producers. Not only did it match and enhance the trotters wonderfully, it also drank very well on its own, offering a well rounded mouthful of raspberries balanced by a good structure and gamey-ness that worked well with the meat.
Koffmann’s signature dessert of Pistachio Soufflé was equally magnificent – proudly rising out of the dish with a lovely crust, soft airy centre, paired with a delicious pistachio ice cream that sauces the soufflé as it melts. The petits fours that rounded off our meal were nice enough, but again with one of each to share between two, it did feel like you were being ripped off a little.
So was it worth it? On the whole probably not. Although it was a joy to taste the Pig’s Trotter prepared by the man himself. The generally good cooking was let down by the service and makeshift venue. Aside from the polished service from Koffmann’s partner Claire at the front of house, the sommelier and a handful of more seasoned wait staff, the rest of the waiters seemed to have little fine-dining experience and one can’t help but feel the kitchen was churning out the dishes to get you quickly out the door.