Pierre Koffmann is everywhere these days. He just relaunched his famous cookbook, Memories of Gascony, and has been featured in newspapers, on blogs, and on television seemingly non-stop. Conveniently, his famous dining establishment, Koffmann’s restaurant at The Berkeley hotel in London, is not far from where I live. So I stop by sometimes.
One of those times was for a party celebrating the relaunch of Memories of Gascony. Throughout the evening, I sampled a number of canapes—including some delicious escargot—that convinced me of my great need to try more of Pierre’s cooking.
At the end of the party, I was given a goody bag with a copy of the cookbook inside. Being a master chef myself, I went home and—okay, we all know that was never going to happen. Instead, I went back to Koffmann’s restaurant the following week to enjoy some classic dishes cooked by the chef himself.
The evening in Knightsbridge started off on a lovely note with a warm welcome from the server and glasses of Laurent-Perrier Champagne for my dinner companion and me.
From there it moved on to a delicate, delicious pizzaladiere and a bread basket that could have been a meal in itself: flaky garlic, whole wheat, olive, poppy seed, and a baguette were not only amazingly light and fresh, but also ensured that we wouldn’t starve before our starters.
Speaking of starters, I had Koffmann’s classic hand-dived scallops with ink sauce and broccoli puree, and my dining partner a fresh crab salad with avocado and grapefruit. The scallops were beautifully buttery and had a nice texture, and the crab salad was a pleasant blend of fresh and meaty elements. With them the sommelier paired a refreshing, classic Costieres de Nimes Blanc ‘Cuvee Tradition’, Mas des Bressandes 2011 white wine.
An intermediate course featured another of Koffmann’s signature starters: squid Bolognese-style. Consisting of calamari cut into spaghetti-thin strips and topped with a dollop of the classic Italian sauce, it was a creative take on a traditional dish, if a bit salty for my taste. The squid was served with Limoux ‘La Tante Claire Selection’, Toques et Clochers 2001 white wine, which was a good pairing.
The mains were roasted monkfish with French bacon and baby leeks, and Scottish sirloin steak with black pepper sauce. Like the scallops that came before it, the monkfish was fresh and the bacon added a nice richness to it. The Pinot Noir de Touraine ‘Les Parcs’, Guy Allion 2001 was perfect, too.
The steak and its sauce made for a nice classic dish, and the Ronan by Clinet, Grand Vin du Bordeaux 2009 stood up to it well.
The only downside was that we had to wait a bit for the wine pairing, as the sommelier was incredibly busy that evening. My main cooled off a bit during that time, and it would have been nice had it been held back until the wines arrived. But it was only a minor snag in an otherwise seamless meal.
For dessert I chose another of the classics at Koffmann’s: a pistachio souffle with pistachio ice cream inside. Light and sweet, warm and cool, it was divine all over. As was the sweet Coteaux du Layon Saint Lambert, Domaine Ogereau 2010 that came with it.
Across the table was an equally decadent and velvety bitter chocolate mousse, which was served with a glass of Banyuls ‘Cuvee Gaby Vial’, Domaine Vial-Magneres NV.
The desserts were followed by a bowl of miniature madeleines, more sweet endings to an enjoyable meal.
Walking home from Pierre Koffmann’s restaurant in London, I knew my fond memories of Gascony would remain strong until my next visit to The Berkeley hotel. Or until I got courageous and tried cooking one of his recipes at home. But the chances of that are…well…non-existent. Not with the real thing so conveniently located down the road in Knightsbridge.