Saturday, 28 April 2012
Koffmann's: a great value lunch in Knightsbridge
At few weeks ago a group of us had lunch at Koffman's in the Berkeley Hotel for my brother's birthday. We'd tried to book at table at Le Gavroche, a particular family favourite, but that hadn't been possible, so we considered some other places. Various Michelin-starred options were discussed and we settled on this latest venture from Pierre Koffmann. Over the years I have had the pleasure of experiencing his inspired cooking – at Tante Claire on Royal Hospital Road (Gordon Ramsey took over this sight for his eponymous restaurant) and at the Berkeley Hotel, when his restaurant relocated there (and experienced his delicious pied de cochon). Koffmann's contemporary interpretation of classic French bistro fare has always been right up my street and, back at the Berkeley, he's paired things down a bit, but still delivers the goods. On the website, they proclaim "This is informal dining for serious foodies." They're right, although it's pretty luxurious, too.
We were there for my brother's birthday and our party of eight all settled for the set lunch, a Gascon white from the sensibly priced Biarritz à Perpignan section of the wine list and a Loire red. A generous, tempting bowl of bread was brought to the table (see picture) which included a rather naughty sort of savoury croissant - buttery and herby. We sat down for a late lunch at 2pm, so the bread was very welcome (and dominated the table, tempting us). A small amuse of creamy, velvety celeriac soup set the tone and our starters soon followed. My poached egg with purple sprouting broccoli and hollandaise was just the sort of decadent starter I've got a weakness for: a perfectly cooked egg yolk oozing into the hollandaise with a few little croutons for some crunchy texture. The terrine and onion soup also looked good (but I think mine had the edge!)
My main course was chicken stuffed with spinach and mushroom, served with some seasonal vegetables and a slick of creamy potato purée. The other mains of duck, cod and pork all went down well (the duck breast: sliced and fanned out and served with a red wine sauce was another hit).
There were some big appetites around the table, so we had side dishes of cauliflower and rather tasty frites, although the food was already quite satisfying. The desserts were a little less interesting - roasted pineapple, baked cheesecake and ice creams - but rounded off our lunch nicely, and my brother's chocolate brownie came on a charmingly decorated plate with a candle. There's a lot of top-end choice in Knightsbridge (Heston's Dinner, Marcus Wareing, Bar Boulud) and Pierre Koffmann, although no longer looking for Michelin stars, is still a very smooth operator. What's more, the three-course set lunch for £25.50 is a bargain. Highly recommended.