When Pierre Koffmann announced that he was returning to cooking after a seven year absence with the opening of his eponymous restaurant at The Berkeley Hotel, it was one of the hotly anticipated openings of the year. This is of course the man who left a gap in the London dining scene after closing his three-starred restaurant, La Tante Claire back in 2003.
I never had the opportunity to dine at La Tante Claire, because at the time I was impoverished graduate. A few years later, things have moved on a little but the world around me has changed. With the onset of the recession, like most of the population eating out is a luxury that I don't indulge in as much as I'd love to. This itself has proven a challenge. I'm a hedonist at heart and don't believe in doing things by halves. I mean what's the point of eating out if you can't have want you want. Which is why I think 'thank god for prix fix menus'.
Many of the top restaurants have good value prix fixe menus. At £18.00 for two courses, and £22.50 for three courses, the prix fixe at Koffmann's is very reasonably priced.
Koffmann's has the same, neutral tones that you come to expect when you eat in a fancy restaurant. The only issue is that its not the star restaurant in the hotel. That accolade belongs to Marcus Wareing. As such Koffmann's occupies a rather awkward space in the lower levels of the hotel which looks like it could double up as a hotel lobby bar.
The staff at Koffman's are incredibly friendly and one of the most welcoming I've ever encountered in London. They immediately make us feel at home, which is so at odds to the formal, and rather stuffy service you seem to find at fine dining establishments. On being seated a selection of freshly baked bread is quickly bought out which I love as it means I have something to nibble on while looking through the menu. We settle on mixing and matching from the prix fixe menu.
Once our orders are taken, an amusee bouche of puffed pastry topped with caramelised onions and olives follows about five minutes later. There's no other word to describe it but delicious.
The AB starts with the salade gourmande which is a mix of artichoke, beans and foie gras. It's a hearty portion. One things for sure there's nothing minimalist about the servings at Koffmann's. They're big. The dressing is sharp and zingy, and perfectly balanced by the creamy melt-in-your mouth shavings of foie gras and solid selection of cold greens.
My confit of aubergine and smoked salmon was excellent, and I really liked the refreshing dollop of creme fraiche.
Next the mains. The AB's blade of beef with braised cabbage and oxtail was to-die-for. The meat was so tender, it literally melted in my mouth. However, it's the roast skate with pepper sauce which wins praises as the star dish from the prix fixe menu.
The skate fillet was fresh and perfectly cooked so that it was on the right side of meaty and not too dry. I particularly loved the scrumptious sprinkling of croutons which had an almost butter-like flavour.
Other things which deserve a special mention are the complementary side dishes . A whimsical basket of French fries lined with newspaper and little coccettes of vegetables, were a welcome surprise and delight to eat.
However the portions meant we had to defeat when it came to desserts, and it was only at the insistence of our waiter we shared chocolate roulade; a delectable swiss roll filled with cream and blackberries. A good choice and definitely worth making room for.
By the end of our meal we still had two full glasses of wine to finish, and our waiter kindly bought us a heavenly plate of homemade marshmallows to nibble on while we finished our drinks. Now that's what I call service.
Verdict: The food and service at Koffmann's is robust and top class. Whether you go a la carte or for the prix fixe, go I guarantee you won't be disappointed.