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Pierre Koffman @ Selfridges


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I won’t bore you with details of what the place looks like – the other reviews out there cover that ground. Essentially, it’s a posh marquee on the roof of Selfridges accessed by a dedicated lift manned by a terrifyingly tall, blonde lady.

We started with three glasses of Mumm Rose, one of which survived, one ended on my lap and the third over the table. An unfortunate start by our young waiter, but mistakes happen.

The menu comprises 5 or 6 starters and main courses, with a similar number of choices on the dessert menu. It’s three courses for £75, but we veered off piste and added a fish course (+£25) and a cheese course (+£10).

The amuse bouche was a celeriac remoulade with pigs head. No surprises here, just solid cooking.

My starter was a game pithiver. For me, it was slightly overdone. The filling had dried out and the pastry was both too thick and a fraction too dark. The sauce, served on the side, had started to congeal, so my guess is that it had been waiting under the lights for a while. The other two had the foie gras with potato galette, sauternes (or was it jurancon?) sauce and an apple puree. I didn’t taste it, but they were both happy with it.

My fish course was exquisite. I encourage all of you that go to choose the scallops. Three of the largest specimens from the Scottish West Coast were cooked perfectly to give that delicious combination of a seared, crisp outside with a sweet, soft inside, served with a squid ink sauce. The others had the lobster cocktail and the langoustines with pressed leeks.

For the main course, two of us had the pig’s trotter, the other had the challon duck breast. Right, I’m going to admit it – I didn’t like the trotter. I have no reason to believe it wasn’t as it was meant to be, but I found it too fatty and too rich. If there was a mistake, it might have been that there was a touch too much egg in the mousse filling, for it was rather more sweetbread and morel omelette than mousse. There was a vast quantity of creamy buttery mash too, which added to the overall heaviness. I had a small taste of the duck, which was great.

The cheeses were a set selection, including a young epoisses, Roquefort, mature brie, plus one hard cheese, I forget the name, and an unusual (in that I haven’t come across it) very soft goat’s cheese.

For pudding, I had the apple tart, the others had the pistachio soufflé and the chocolate ‘mousse’. The tart was a simple affair presented with a lot of (too much?) filo pastry stacked on top. The mousse was rather more like a Louis XV of the Ducasse / Roussillon type, rather than the lighter type you might expect. The soufflé looked excellent.

A note on the service. As has been observed elsewhere, the waiters are all temporarily employed from a catering company so the service was rather haphazard, but they are trying hard and we enjoyed chatting with them.

They have a real issue with their wine, in that all of the white was served far too cold. Chatting with the sommelier, they are aware of the issue so I hope they get that sorted. We were comp-ed a glass of Chablis each after our Puligny-Montrachet never made it up to drinking temperature.

All in all, the food was good, but not exceptional - except for the scallops – and felt a touch old-fashioned, which perhaps is to be expected. I would suggest tempering any high expectations driven by the hype, and just go hoping for a very pleasant meal in an unusual setting.

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Right, my story, not too dissimilar to cheekymunkey in some ways

Amuse Bouche was good, and I went for the lobster cocktail to start. This was really good, I'm not normally a big fan of lobster, I often find myself let down by it, but this was a really nice, light starter. One of my friends went for the snails with bone marrow which was nice (I did sneak a bite) and the other went for the foie gras which he really enjoyed.

For mains we all went for the pigs trotter. Yes, it was as expected rich, and if someone had presented me with a plateful of it this morning I would have probably felt slightly sick and ran away, but I'd certainly eat it again if I had the opportunity after recovering! Didn't try any other mains as my companions all insisted on copying me, the selfish gits.

For desserts, as above I went for the apple tart and the others went with Pistachio Souffle. I thought the tart was fantastic and after doing some swaps we all ended up believing we made the right choice. Interestingly, my friends who went with slightly heavier starters were by this point feeling rather stuffed. Whether it was my lighter starter, or simply the fact that we were eating late, I could quite happily have polished off another course by this point! I ordered an espresso so that I could sample the petit fours which were superb.

With regards to the wine - the Riesling I had with my lobster was fine temperature wise, although I felt it was probably a bit too sweet and I would have preferred something drier. The red we had with the trotters was excellent, can't recall the producer but it was from the Rhone valley and really hit the spot.

The service was a bit hit and miss at times, our starters took a fair while to arrive, but it didn't spoil what was an excellent meal in all. I wouldn't say it was one of the meals of my life, but it was certainly memorable. My only regret was not having a phantom eater on the table so we could have sampled some extra dishes! :)

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Interesting that you found it a little old fashioned, I commented to a friend the other day that I thought it might not cut the mustard with todays audience, at the time it was fabulous and there were obviously some lovely refined dishes that he served as well but the pigs trotter, whilst his most famous dish, is definitely not what you would call refined, its probably more akin to the sort of hearty dish you could fully expect to get it in a decent pub.

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

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It's not so much that Koffman's cooking wouldn't cut the mustard - the quality is plain to see. What made it old fashioned was the structure of the menu and the individual dishes.

As you say, more of the hearty dishes and less of the delicate, pretty plates that feature more widely these days. If there was a trotter-style dish on a regular menu elswhere, I expect it would comprise a smear of the mash (rather than a dollop) and possibly another balancing item for a break from the fatty pig and buttery mash. Not here, this is pure indulgence. The heavily reduced sauces and big flavours were relentless - though I could have chosen differently.

Maybe I'm talking gibberish, but I think that's the key difference. In the 80s, people ate top-end food to feel decadent, to indulge and to finish the meal contently stuffed. Today's palates are different. We want surprises in flavour in texture. We want picture perfect presentation. We want more balanced flavours and the satisfaction is less from feeling stuffed full, than from feeling as if we've completely a journey.

Edited by cheeekymunkey (log)
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It's not so much that Koffman's cooking wouldn't cut the mustard - the quality is plain to see. What made it old fashioned was the structure of the menu and the individual dishes.

As you say, more of the hearty dishes and less of the delicate, pretty plates that feature more widely these days. If there was a trotter-style dish on a regular menu elswhere, I expect it would comprise a smear of the mash (rather than a dollop) and possibly another balancing item for a break from the fatty pig and buttery mash. Not here, this is pure indulgence. The heavily reduced sauces and big flavours were relentless - though I could have chosen differently.

Maybe I'm talking gibberish, but I think that's the key difference. In the 80s, people ate top-end food to feel decadent, to indulge and to finish the meal contently stuffed. Today's palates are different. We want surprises in flavour in texture. We want picture perfect presentation. We want more balanced flavours and the satisfaction is less from feeling stuffed full, than from feeling as if we've completely a journey.

I agree with what you're saying - I can't imagine seeing a 3* restaurant serving the trotters like that nowadays, but I could be wrong.

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For those of you wishing to know what the regular menu options are (spellings and all):

Starters

Pan Fried Foie Gras with a Potato Galatte and Sauternes Jus

Cocktail of Scottish Lobster and Avocado with a Lemon Jelly

Pressed Leeks and Langoustines with a truffle Vinaigrette

Hand Dived Scallops with Squid Ink

Fricasse of Wild Mushrooms and Snails with Bone Marrow

Game Pithivier with a Jus Corsé

Mains

Pig's Trotter stuffed with Veal Sweetbreads and Morel Mushrooms

Challan Duck Roasted with Herbs and Spices

Royale de Lièvre with Buttered Tagliatelle

Pavè of Wild Seabass with an Artichoke Barigoule

Roast Cod with Cèpes

English Roast Rose Veal Cutlet with Girolles and Roasting Juices

Desserts

Cheese Plate £5 supplement

Pistachio Soufflé with Pistaschio Ice Cream

Fresh Walnut Tart with Chestnut Honey Ice Cream

Toscano Chocolate Mousse, Orange Compot and Muscovado Ice Cream

Pain Perdue with Sweet Pineapple and Coconut Ice Cream

Gascon Apple Pie

Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours £4.95

I would never have thought to photograph the menu usually, but read this thread this morning before going, so had the prompting of the lack of menus to take away mentioned earlier in the thread.

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Today's specials - at least at lunch - were thinly slice octopus (starter); turbot (main); and (forget the actual description) a baked chocolate pudding with malt ice cream.

Very pleasant space, lovely light, but hard to appreciate the views when the blinds are sensible drawn. (South-facing, midday light). Service was friendly and we had some good conversations with the waitstaff.

The foie gras was sumptuous, and I quite liked the fricassee of mushrooms and snails with bone marrow. The snails were more texture than taste, but the rest of it worked nicely together. The pig's trotter wasn't quite as rich as I was expecting, oddly, after all I'd read here, but it had nice variety, especially of textures. The crackling was the prettiest I have ever seen. The duck was good, the vegetables and its sauce were even better with lovely infused herbs and spices. The desserts were our one disappointment; first bites of pistachio soufflé and the chocolate special were good, but they quickly became very samey and, sadly, boring for us. The petit fours were superb, varied and lively.

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What a shame. Why not go? To be honest I am expecting the trotter to be too rich but I'm going to have to have it anyway. I'm going with a friend so we'll share the dishes.

I've met the big man himself quite a few times and never eaten his food, so I feel I just can't miss it.

I know this is a digression but: what do the lightbulbs by the forum topics mean? I'm new to this.

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As I said because there is nothing I have read that makes me think it is going to live up to its £75 billing. The Trotter is a famous dish but I'd wager money that if Koffmann was to open a bistro he would sell that dish with a far lower price tag. Other reports read nicely but don't strike me as mind blowing. I think my expectation might be set unreasonably high.

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

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Yeah, very true. I'm worried I might be expecting too much. There blatantly a bistro on the way isn't there! And Arbutus is his favourite restaurant in London. Bet he can't resist his very own Starred Bistro, with Trotter et al featuring prominently as you say.

I just don't want to miss out. Bit sad I know, but if there isn't a bistro on the way, I don't want to look back and have passed by the oppotunity to eat the old boy's food.

Did you ever eat at Tante Claire?

I'll manage expectations by drinking lots of wine.

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Is there a bistro on the way? In this climate I just don't know. Added to the fact that he doesn't want to risk his own money (see recent interview with Richard Vines) and his age I doubt it will realy come about or if it does it will be nothing more than him being a front man for a bigger group of investors. He has consulted at a few places over the last few years and nobody got too excited then which may put off potential backers. He has been talking about a bistro for years, ever since LTC closed :hmmm:

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

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He is getting on a bit isn't he! Have you been to that St James' place he was consulting at? I can't remember the name, something French I think.

His lobster/lemon jelly starter at Selfridges looks pretty damn good in photos i've seen. Bit 70/80s in a martini glass but you can't have everything.

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Oooooh it's tough, the veal sounds really good. I think I'll have loster and veal and get my mate to have foie and trotter and share.

What about puddings? Can you have anything apart from the infamous souffle? I must admit, I'm not really a huge souffle fan.

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Strange, I had the veal and Girolles with roasting juices the other day, at Arbutus. It was things like the veal being English Rose (not that I have anything against English Veal, some of it is very good) that made me canx, at that price why not Limousin veal and something a little more adventurous sauce wise?

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

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Yeah, I know what you mean. And the girolles. When I was working at Salt Yard we always used to put 'Scottish Girolles' on the menu because firstly they were, but they're seasonal and expensive. The cheap ones are from Poland and no way near as nutty.

God, they do know how to roast a bit of Veal at Arbutus. Anthony's blanquette is one of my all time favourite dishes.

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I am due to go this Saturday but may well cancel, as I was planning to go up and down in the day. However looking at the train times it will be a round trip of 7 1/2 hours plus numerous changes, not sure what is going on with the railways this weekend.

With that I think I will fly over to Paris instead, in less the time. :smile:

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Then surely it would be a Madeira sauce and not roasting juices? My point being that a very good, simply roasted piece of English veal with its juices and girolle mushrooms can be had for far less than the £75 required here. For that sort of money I either want something with impeccable ingredients or something a little more technical. Compare the complex dishes at Ducasse to Koffman. £75 for three courses at both of them. :hmmm:

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

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what? no it wouldn't be madeira sauce. that's like saying gravy becomes red wine sauce if you put a dash of red wine in it. and you are having the dish for much less than £75; in fact, as you go on to say it's £25.

i look forward to letting you know about it anyway.

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