Koffmann Shines With Stylish Swiss Tradition At The Berkeley
A true traditionalist at heart, Pierre Koffman bases his cuisine on his own grandmother's recipes, going back to his Swiss Germanic roots, were service was the basis of true Swiss hospitality. He is widely acclaimed for translating good, simple honest fare into sophisticated offerings without becoming a slave to trends. He considers the rewards of a chef in simply granting pleasure to his customers. Not one, for succumbing to the whims of creating experimental concoctions that claim column inches, he remains a master of doing what he does best: classic cuisine – and doing it well.
"An evening at the Berkeley can’t fail when it comes to an unforgettable experience of traditional elegance from a bygone age."
The customer is treated with a courtesy that is often overlooked in today’s rushed World. Being here is like being party to the Gatsby era, except you don’t need to be part of the idle rich to enjoy it.
On our visit, we found the clientele to be mostly filled with business travellers and couples staying at the hotel. The menu was quite a script to study, and it took us beyond our starter to make our minds up. A bounteous choice of seafood, game, meat and pasta partnered with some exquisite sauce, was enough to make your stomach do somersaults in anticipation. So, after a lengthy delay on my side; that was cushioned with a honey flavoured Sancerre, I opted for a starter of Langoustines and Scallops in a coconut and coriander broth delicately infused with its complementary Pan-Asian flavours. ( This is as far from Classic French that Pierre will venture.) My companion’s choice was directed by a yearning for the snails simmering in garlic butter in a cocotte, topped with emulsion.
He found the emulsion to be ‘restaurant froth’ and thought it did little to add to the dish, other than pave the way for the final ‘coup de grace’ of the garlic sauce that oozed through. His resounding impression though, was of an addictive and wholesome dish. We were recommended a Reisling to accompany the seafood, but I find I am continually resistant to its charms. Instead I opted for a more honey flavoured Sancerre closer to the tones of Burgundy, but lighter.
Our palates were prepared with 2 delicious amuse bouches’ before and after our starter. Firstly, we were given a mini version of the chef’s signature dish of pig’s trotters presented as a small but substantial enough breadcrumb - coated parcel that was just enough to give you an idea of what was to come. Before the standing ovation of the main, we were presented with another speciality of the chef - squid in a bolognese sauce. My reservations over bolognese and seafood being made for a partnership, were quickly thrown aside, as the divinely aromatised sea salt flavour of the squid was not lost in indignation. The bolognese sauce was subtle enough not to drown out the squid and sea and earth flavours merged harmoniously.
When my companion saw my beef fillet with foie gras and truffle, he wished he had gone for it, but thought the signature dish of pig’s trotters had to be experienced. Both dishes arrived at the same time after an impeccably timed wait within the 20 minute curfew, perfectly presented with their myriad of textures packed into gourmandly copious portions. My beef fillet could not be faulted – it was exemplary. The thick slab of fine meat slid off my knife, the foie gras slithered, and the truffle finished the dish with an aroma of sheer decadence to be savoured in all in its indulgence. My companion’s dish was rather less refined in its composition, with more than a leaning towards what used to be enjoyed by peasants. Definitely to be missed if you are counting the calories, and not a first date dish either, as eating it femininely could be unforgiving. A rich, fatty, tasty but tender episode that according to my companion, would have benefited from even more of the sauce. To the observer’s eye, it appeared to be more than well served with it. But such is not getting enough of a good thing.
As ever, I passed on dessert, having helped myself to the delicious bread baked on the premises, laced with olive, parmesan, and sun-dried tomato. I was amazed, though that my companion was able to find place for the giant mound of pistachio soufflé that he decided on for dessert. Thoroughly pleased I had brought such a devout food appreciator with me, we looked on at this assault course with amazement. The sponge sprang off the fork, and each bite was as soft and fluffy as cotton wool clouds.
The Berkeley is located in Knightsbridge
London SW1 XRL
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