Late this week after a slight delay, the long-awaited Koffmann’s finally opened its doors at the former site of Boxwood Cafe, in the same hotel where the legendary chef’s beloved La Tante Claire used to reside. B and I arrived at the restaurant on the second day of service after a few cocktails at Blue Bar (I totally recommend DJ Pickford – an earl grey tea based martini, ‘Spicy Dog’ was good too but not as punchy at the name would suggest), and were pleasantly greeted at the door. After a quick check on the reservations list, we were escorted to a lovely quiet corner table towards the back of the restaurant. The layout doesn’t differ greatly from Boxwood but the new interiors have a more feminine edge, and the muted colour palate sets a softer, more welcoming tone.
Aperitifs were quickly ordered (Bollinger Special Cuvée) and we settled in to inspect the food and wine menus, both of which were concise, with the latter refreshingly reasonably priced. We made our choices and tucked into the amuses of Black Pudding and Celeriac Rémoulade. The thick slices of blood sausage were tasty, not too strong and nicely balanced by the lightly-dressed celeriac, with the toasted rounds providing some crunch.
I wasn’t too hungry (having indulged in a few bar snacks with my pre-dinner martinis) but B was, and attacked the bread basket with gusto. He was disappointed by the hard pieces of bread rolls, but found the whipped butter a delight – light and smooth with a caramel flavour. He was still waxing lyrical about it when our starters descended. Mine was the Cassolette d’Escargots et Girolles à l’Ail, a small creuset of snails and girolles with garlic and mashed potatoes. Admittedly the herbed garlic foam that blanketed the dish looked a tad unappetising, but it was a delicious and very comforting plate of food. My one complaint would be the ratio of snails and mushrooms to mash – there were only about four of the small plump gastropods.
I didn’t care for B’s choice of Tender Leeks with Smoked Eel as it was too cold and bland; having said that the smoked eel on offer was tender and of excellent quality. B enjoyed it, but he too found the leek terrine lacking in flavour and the general dish not as satisfying as hoped.
My main of Scallops and Squid Ink is a Koffmann signature dish, one of three that he has resurrected from his glory days at La Tante Claire (the others being the Pig Trotters and Pistachio Soufflé). I hadn’t realised it also came with pommes purée so had a bit of a mash overload, but the scallops were perfectly seared and paired beautifully with the swirl of deep squid ink and sweet red pepper sauce. It would have made a better starter (it is offered as both), although I doubt I will be ordering it again as at £28 it was a bit too dear for what you get.
B’s Lapin à la Moutarde however was phenomenal (I kicked myself for not ordering it myself); the incredibly moist rabbit (breast stuffed, leg left on bone), served with baby artichokes and broad beans, was mild and sweet in flavour and the mustard although undeniably present, was not overwhelming in any way. B declared it one of the best rabbit dishes he’s tasted and I would return solely for this dish.
Our mains came with a pre-set trio of sides – sugar snap peas, curry buttered baby carrots and french fries. The fries, playfully served in a cone of newspaper (the day’s copy of ‘Le Monde’), were impossibly crunchy and greasy, but in a good way. I prefer fries with more of a soft potato centre, but these were pretty moreish – perhaps not the best match to our dishes (especially considering mine already boasted a portion of potatoes), but they would have been great on their own with some ketchup!
As we came to dessert B was already starting to flag so opted for a light fruity number – the pretty Peach Melba. I wasn’t particularly wowed by it – the juicy raspberry-glazed peach was lovely, but the rest of the creation was pretty pedestrian.
I couldn’t resist picking the Pistachio Soufflé for dessert as I had enjoyed it immensely at Koffmann’s pop-up in Selfridges last year and it didn’t disappoint. The crowning scoop of Pistachio ice cream could have been bigger though as once it sunk into the airy pud it all but disappeared. The soufflé itself was majestic, and finishing it left me bursting at the seams.
Fronted by Pierre’s affable partner Claire and the very competent and attentive service staff, Koffmann’s ran like a well-oiled machine despite it having only opened the day before. Of course the restaurant was only two thirds full so it would be interesting to see if proceedings would be quite as smooth with a full house. As it was, we were sipping jasmine tea along with the petit fours (apricot pâtes de fruit, chocolate orange Macarons and mini coffee cream-filled choux buns topped with praline) by 830pm.
We rolled out of there content and well looked after, but did feel it was a bit expensive for what was on offer (the bill came to £180 with 2 glasses of champagne and a half bottle of wine). I will however inevitably return at some point to sample the better value lunch menu, the pig’s trotter, and of course the exquisite Lapin à la Moutarde. A good start for the return of the French maestro.
London SW1X 7RL
t. 020 7235 6000