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Paul Bell

Pierre Koffman possibly retiring?

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I didn't realise his wife had died. It is crystal clear from his book "La Tante Claire" how vital she was to the success of the restaurant and how much it pleased him to be able to focus on the cooking knowing that she was taking care of all the other aspects of the operation.

Maybe he's despondent and things don't taste the same to him anymore. All the more reason to hope he bounces back.

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An enjoyable dinner Chez Koffmann last night in the company of Magnolia (just back from Paris) and others. A pleasant indulgence and certainly not as bad as had been led to believe; maybe Matthew's protestations have had an effect!

Champagne cocktails in the bar, plus a vigorous debate over the menu. Too many good things to try, not helped by the temptation of specials of pot-au-feu of foie gras, lievre a la royale and woodcock (in the usual way - innards on brioche, split head on the side) announced once we got to the table. Would add that the waiter was pushing the specials quite hard - given all bourdain has writ about specials in Kitchen Confidential, not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

LTC menu

After much debate we went for a variety of dishes; langoustines with veg, foie gras & hollandaise, cold foie gras in a millefeuille with smoked eel,lobster and foie gras pot au feu chosen among the starters. Pied de cochon, lievre a la royale, venison with chocolate sauce and an entrecote steak featured among the mains.

Amuses was some fish mousse with concasse of fish and tomato in filo cases - somewhat desultory not helped by suspiciously albino filo pastry (undercooked?). Bread from the trolley was nice - fresh, but not warm, although they were a little tardy with the reloads. Had sesame and bacon & onion during the meal.

Start of foie gras pot-au-feu had a decent-sized chunk of poached foie gras swimming in a dusky consomme alongside random veg (carrots, courgettes &tc). Very nice - first time I'd seen poached foie gras in a restaurant (although there is a recipe for it in the stefano cavellini book). The foie gras seemed smooth and less rich than when I've had it fried -firmer and less oily. Wuld add however the liver was ugly as f*ck - when poached it turns a nasty greyish colour. The consomme was a meaty broth done proper - not much more you can add except point out that it blended well with the fattiness of the fg. Foie gras - consumme, veg; an enjoyable dish which made a virtue of simplicity.

Main course of pig foot (naturally) was also nice. I've had this in other incarnations at novelli and the oak room (during the brief Interlude de Reid). The original one seemed smaller than at novelli but the trotter skin was also more melting-tender; almost disintegrating. The filling, as advertising was a loosely-bound mix of sweetbreads, morals and bits of onion. Pretty rich, but I liked it; it had a certain depth of flavour. On the side a quenelle of mash garnished with a fried onion ring, and a pool of sauce. As Matthew pointed out, the spuds weren't as smooth/loaded with butter as is the fashion nowadays (viz gordon ramsay); hopefully this was deliberate. Overall a good dish - not necessarily the "WOW" dish it may have been in more innocent times, but simple and satisfying.

Pre-desert was a shotglass of earl grey sorbet with mint cream. Shades of colgate, or after-eight, alas.

Pudding was pistachio souffle; probably my favourite dish of the evening (and I'm not normally a pudding man) - notable for the thin, evenly browned crust on the outside (I think the inside of the dish was robed with chocolate/caramel) and sweetness, rather than the egginess which you sometimes get with souffles (although it was a bit eggy in the very middle). A ball of pistachio ice-cream was lobbed into the middle at the table, which didn't add than much apart from the obvious temperature shift. The souffle would still have been scrummy seul.

Petit fours OK - nor particularly memorable apart from some brandy snaps, although mini tiramasus received praise from others. We managed to hijack the restaurants plate of chocolate truffles however, and gorged ourselves.

Other food? Generally appreciative comments. Portion control on the other starters was a little severe - only three langoustines and a pretty stubby piece of cold foie gras (remember also padded out with smoked eel). Lobster with risotto received good notices, as did venison and chocolate (not too chocolatey). A notable vacherin and oozing reblochon on the cheeseboard.

Service was probably a little slow - as mentioned they were a little tardy with the bread and in comparison to, say, GR the room seemed a little understaffed (does seem about twice as many covers as RHR). Thankfully we had Magnolia's beau to charm (barrack?) the sommelier into submission. Decor also a little on the chintzy side and a /very/ random selection of table ornaments - from papier-mache submarines to kettles which added little apart from a generaly puzzlement

The damage was a hundred and fifty each, including three bottles of wine between the six of us (I'll let magnolia deal with those), aperitifs and some digestifs (port, banyuls, tokay). Overall a pleasant evening in good company. Is it worth the trip? personally I think it's still worth a punt before they shut down (the places was probably 3/4 full during the evening. As I said at the start maybe Matts missive has had the desired effect!

cheerio

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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I'm still awaiting a reply to my letter from PK although I did get a reply on the back of the copy I sent to Jean-Jacques Pergant (managing director at the Berkely) who advised that he was sure PK wuld be in contact and he would be speaking to him shortly.

I'm glad that Jon can report a nice meal, interesting that portion control was a little severe especially after the huge portion of scallops that Rachel was served on our visit. It also sounds a little busier as the close approaches, they were approximately 50% full when we visited at 20:30 on a Saturday. I'm beginning to wonder whether PK was in the kitchen on the night we were there.

Jon, did your waiter now the details of the specials without checking with the kitchen?


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Yes they did know the details when he announced them - and I grilled him a bit more on the woodcock. Didn't mention prices though.

As I said though, they were pushed the hare and woodcock mains quite aggressively - dunno if it because they wanted to get rid of them or because they weren't selling.

Interesting, not a sight of a truffle the entire meal. Maybe we're a bit too early in the season?

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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Black Truffles aren't quite ripe enough yet, early December will be better.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I heartily second Jon's assessment, I had a delicious meal. I was a bit reticent after the disappointments of late but whether you think this food is old fashioned or not - as Steve P. asks about whether people care about this food or not, in fact, I've seen variations on many of last night's dishes - stuffed trotter (off the top of my head: La Trouvaille, Crescent etc. ), venison in a chocolate sauce (Harrow Inn, maybe Oxo Tower if memory serves?), even lobster with curry-esque spices (ultra moderne Chamarre in Paris) - on menus at about 10 restaurants in the last six months. So obviously people - chefs and diners alike - *do* still care about this kind of food.

The decor could use a boost, certainly. But that's not something I care a lot about anyway. It was luxurious, comfortable...and expensive. But you can bet I feel a lot better about spending the kind of money we spent last night on good food and a satisfying experience, which I consider value for money, than I do at paying over the odds - even at 1/10 the price of last night's meal - for the OVERpriced disgrace that I'm sorry to say masquerades as dinner at many London restaurants.

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Jon/Magnolia

Well that's very unhelpful, just about to cancel my reservation at LTC and things are improving?

That being said I get the impression that you enjoyed the meal but that it was not great rather it was nice/pleasant. I confess I am not prepared to pay that sort of money for anything less than excellent especially when I can go across the road to Foliage.

Paul

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Teehee. What larks!

You can have endless arguments about whether its worth it/is it any good/couldn't I get 5400 chinese stuffed buns for that price* . Three thoughts:

- Let face it, by simply making a booking you're signing away the average GDP of a small, semi-industrialised sub-saharan shanty town. If you're looking for value-for-money, go for lunch. ** At Foliage. Or, even better, MaccyD's when they have their hamburger-for-49p promotion on ;-) ***

- Don't go because someone else says its good/not as good it use to be/losing its touch but still does nice puddings. Go because you want to go.

- Ultimately its quite simple. If you reckon you'll have fun, go. If you think you won't, don't.

toodle-pip

J

* In Beijing a quid will get you roughly 36 baozi. If you figure three baozi for lunch/supper and two for breakfast this would last nearly two years, provided the scurvy doesn't get you first.

** the alternative is to marry a rich heiress and damn the cost, though I gather Simon hasn't had much success on this route...

*** as with the Pizza Hut buffet, the three golden rules still apply: 1) arrive early so the food is fresh 2) pace yourself 3) avoid the sides, which just distract from the main event


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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The moral of that post is: "Never imply to people that you think they may have wasted their money".

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Or, if you excuse the business-speak, "managing expecations is key"

Whether you enjoy these joints is nothing with how good they are, but everything to do with whether they beat or miss your expectations.

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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Now I'm confused but then its way to early on a Tuesday morning for me.

If Tony is suggesting my implication was that Jon et al has wasted their money then that is not the case, I am in no position to comment on that, in fact it is nothing to do with me. (God I'm beginning to sound like others on this board).

My comment was that I cannot justify £250 on a nice meal when I can have a very good one for £150 across the road, partly because of limited cash and partly because of limited opportunities.

Do I want to go to LTC yes, but I would like to know if my expectations of having a very good meal are likely to be met and from the postings above that does not appear to be the case. Do I think I might have fun there yes, but then I could say the same about many other places.

Paul

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