Ok, it's been 8 months since my last blog post. Forgive me, Father... Oh no, that's something else.
I had lunch with food blogger and fellow twitterer Kavita of Kavey Eats (you can read her fab review there!) today and I was inspired to write something about our incredible lunch as it felt like such a seminal moment in food history, being in the first slot of the first service open to the public of the legendary Pierre Koffman of Le Tante Claire fame. Three Michelin Stars (over and over) and come out of retirement, initially just for London Restaurant Festival, and extended twice (so far).
If you've read this far, let me apologise now for the lack of links to other blogs on the side bar, it's something, now that I may have begun blogging again I will endeavour to fix quickly.
the Winter Wonderland entrance as you exit the dedicated lift
The biggest pleasure of being at the Pierre Koffman pop-up restaurant was that despite the silver service (which was a little haphazard but, hey, it was the first full service to the public) there was a feeling of being part of a special family. A family of people who revered food and didn't want to miss tasting the legendary Pierre Koffman's cooking (including Charles Campion and some other people I recognised but couldn’t name). Given the lovely Kavita had managed to get the very first slot on the very first booking we were going to be amongst a group of people who were there because they cared to be a part of the food experience, rather than the groups of corporates so often seen in Michelin restaurants, who wouldn't know, or couldn't care what they were eating, as long as it comes with "a good red".
For a pop-up restaurant the fixtures look pretty permanent: glass panes, carpet... this ain't no ordinary tent. The (very loud) whisper is bookings will be extended again into November. The head staff were as excited to be there as the guests, there was a bustling, Christmas morning feeling to the experience; a slightly crazy, not-sure-where-to-look-next zinging with the thrill of anticipation of tastiness to come.
And tastiness did come.
Beginning with some doughy, still-warm bread.
Our amuse bouche (which we first thought was our starter) was an incredibly flavoured, intensely reduced langoustine bisque with a potato foam (tasting exactly like an aerated, buttery Maris Piper mash). My how grateful I was that they didn't serve us the skewered ducks' hearts they served last night on the practice run.
My rather plain but perfectly executed langoustines with pressed leeks and truffle. (I couldn't really taste the truffle but, like the bisque, it was deliciously intensely flavoured).
Kavey's much more exciting (yep, major food envy) Cocktail of Scottish Lobster and Avocado with a Lemon Jelly (she describes it better here):
My Pavè of Wild Seabass with an Artichoke Barigoule
Well-cooked fish (although not the finest piece of sea bass I've ever had) and delicately marinated vegetables and the slow-roasted garlic and onions... oh, so well cared for, who knew carrots could taste like that? It was all appearances of simplicity but so obvious that so much more had gone into it.
The INFAMOUS pig's trotters (Pig’s Trotter stuffed with Veal Sweetbreads and Morel Mushrooms). Gelatinous. That's the all-consuming word to describe the meaty unctuous mouthful that I sampled, reminiscent of slow-cooked pork belly, and even more, well, fatty. A delicate, buttery, buttery mash whipped to submission and floating in meaty, clarified jus was the perfect accompaniment. I was delighted Kavey ordered this dish because I was desperate to try it but I was never going to order trotters. Seriously, trotters?! Offal just does not seem a treat to fork out for. Ah, the margins that he must be able to make from this dish.
Kavey was delighted with her pistachio souffle, which was prepared with precision, perfectly executed (and no easy task) but pistachio souffles don't really rock my boat. Where's the flavour? I like intensity, but that's me. And my apple tart on the other hand... oh my. Heaven, heaven, heaven.
We had to ask for our petit fours and I was slightly saddened that we didn't get two of each but seeing as we could barely eat half of what you can see, and eight hours later I am STILL full it's probably not a warranted complaint!
William Curley's chocolate truffles were light and creamy and superb in their Amedei-goodness, as always. The madeleine was soaked with rum and dotted with raisins and far better than it looks.
From our table we had several conversations with other guests and staff, probably attracted to talking to us as we were taking pictures of each course from every angle. It was thrilling to have one of the hostesses who I think may have been the Claire (as in Le Tante Claire, Pierre’s wife!) come and share with us - unsolicited - that the flour used in my incredible "apple pie" came especially from France, the only flour stretchy enough to make the croustade on top of the lightly cooked apple pieces that were embedded in the chewiest, most delicious caramel with a thin layer of pastry curled around it’s edges. On this trip to France, Pierre, according to our confidante, ate croustade every day. I can understand why.
The staff were also happy to indulge our request to know what potatoes were used in the sea bass dish (Corte de gatte – Pink Fir Apple - if you were wondering, a fingerling, firm yellow variety from the South of France) and they even interrupted Pierre and Eric Chavot to have them sign menus for us both. I’m thrilled with my smiley face in a chef’s hat!
£75 for three courses (and then the drinks and service) is certainly a lot, even in London, for a three course meal, even more so at lunch. We were pleasantly surprised to find that wine by the glass started at £4 (my single glass of Argentinean Fantasia white at £5 was delicious) and our teas were only £1.90 each. Refreshing after all the Ramsay restaurants I’ve been to recently where you can barely get a glass of wine for under £8.
My only regret was not to be on a table of six so we could try every one of the dishes. Though, if they are extending the season...