“Pigs trotter Pierre Koffmann”…A timeless classic in the foodie world ,there isn`t a chef worth his or her salt who hasn`t heard of this `top of the ladder` dish, one which many of the leading chefs would be eating as their`last ever meal on earth`. Strangely enough its one that has taken me almost 25 years to get around to experiencing and just to go one better, mine would be made by the legend himself , superstar French chef Pierre Koffmann.I`m definitely going to attempt to make this one as a blog post but its pretty labour intensive so ill plan it for the near future. In the meantime ill share the `real deal` along with the full meal report here on my blog.
Pierre Koffmann first came to light in the late seventies when he held the position of head chef at Michel Roux`s Waterside inn in the village of Bray .Pierre later went on to run his own restaurant Le Tante Claire in London in 1977.Later on in the mid eighties and at the time when food and cooking was just starting to emerge on TV and in the media,there were only 3 Three star Michelin restaurants in the UK at the time. Albert Roux at Le Gavroche ,Michel Roux at the Waterside and Pierre koffman at La Tante Claire.It was in this period when Pierres signature dish “Pied au cochon au Morrilles” emerged as the `dish to try` in the UK restaurant world and since then , it has never gone away from leading classic cuisine woldwide. Marco pierre white actually hailed the trotter as the best dish in the world and to eat it would be his last meal on earth.He reproduced the dish on his Michelin 3 star menu as “Stuffed pigs trotter Pierre koffmann” and it also became a legendary classic after that under the Marco pierre white name.
We booked in to Koffmanns in the Berkeley hotel in London, Mayfair for Sunday lunch.I emailed them beforehand to make sure that the pigs trotter would be on the menu that day , i was told `they`re never off`….a good start.The prices are all very reasonable at Koffmanns ,starters average £8 to £16 , fish dishes £22 to £42 ( roasted lobster ) , main courses £23 to £28 for the trotter and desserts £8 to £14 for Koffmanns signature Pistachio souffle.They dont actually do a tasting menu of Pierres classics which would have been amazing so instead we decided to make our own tasting menu up with 2 starters , a main, a cheese course , pudding and coffee…all with matched wines.At this point i have to mention the staff and the service.I had already been contacted twice on Twitter by the “Berkeley hotel” firstly to wish me a safe journey and enjoyable visit and to just shout up if we required anything…Wow , good service. The second “Tweet” was to ask if we were going to experience the trotters….That was already carved in stone….but a fine start to a memorable experience on how to make the customer feel special. The next part continued the second that we walked through the door, we were greeted warmly by Richard the Maitre`D and from that point on we experienced very special service at the highest levels of hospitality. Guided through the menus with history of the signature dishes , house recommendations and introduced to other front of house members who
would take care of us throughout the meal.
The Sommelier was truly excellent at his job, explained to us all about how carefully sourced very reasonably priced wines can be better than the expensive classics and giving us a mini wine tasting education at the same time ( especially for yours truly who`s no expert by a long shot )
To begin the meal we were given a little taster of thinly rolled flatbread the thickness of a poppadom with Smoked haddock brandade piped on top , just a little amusement to start the experience off nicely.
The bread selection arrived and for a classic French chef we expected nothing other than perfection, and the bread met those levels perfectly.The white bread was freshly baked , warm , crispy and the best in the business.The brioche was multi layered and as light as a feather and as the photo shows , you simply cant improve on perfection.
Our starter was recommended by Richard , he advised one of us to have the classic
Koffmann signature dish of Scallops with squids ink and cauliflower puree ( £16 ) and the other to have the squid bolognaise ( £10 ).Fresh squid thinly shaved horizontally with a very sharp knife and then cut up into delicate pasta like ribbons which were briefly cooked off and served with a bolognaise style tomato sauce….it was different and tasted wonderful.I didnt get a taste of the scallops as my dining partner wouldn`t
part with the tiniest morsel….so i take it they were good.Well actually i was offered his empty plate to mop up the squid ink sauce with my bread, i couldn`t resist …it was good.
Next up we both had the “Cassolette d`escargots et champignons persilles” (Snails ,
mushrooms , garlic and parsley ) ( £12 ) .Served in a small cast iron lidded cocotte pot , we knew they were on the way before they arrived at the table , the smell of good food filled the restaurant.The base of the pot contained a very delicate mousseline of potato , very light in texture and topped with tiny chanterelle mushrooms and the roasted snails.A highly aromatic sauce of butter , garlic and fresh parsley was spooned over the snails and served with a side of crispy garlic bread. Every mouthful was a
“closed eyes moment”….a very memorable tasting experience .
Now it was time for the legendary trotter and from its decription and what i had been reading about it i could almost re-create its flavour in my mouth.The trotter is firstly boned out and pot roasted in Veal jus with a selection of vegetables until the fat is broken down and meltingly succulent.This takes 3 to 4 hours.Basically the trotter serves as a casing for the mousse filling enclosed within.The filling is made from caramelised sweetbreads ,smokey morel mushrooms and held together with a chicken mousse.The trotter and filling is then wrapped up to re-shape it all in foil and allowed to set in the fridge.The next step is to roast it all off in the oven until it is cooked through and the filling is set.It is then unwrapped and bathed in more rich veal jus and sent to table.
Its accompaniments are koffmanns classic pommes puree , the most velvety cream mashed potatoes known to man.Spirals of crunchy caramelised pork crackling crown the mash and thats all that is needed.
Just to add value for money a selection of vegetables and a paper cone of chips fried in dripping come on the side.As for the trotter….Loin stirring , Heaven on a plate , meltingly tender, cut through with no effort , rich , sticky….very sticky , concentrated flavours , its just out of this world and i could immediately see what 25 years of fuss was all about and now while im sitting writing this at home , im just working out when i can return back to Koffmanns to eat it all again.Re-creating it at home just isnt a substitute on this occasion.
The cheese trolley arrived and it was just a case of a Little Britain - “Want them all” , we were guided through all of the cheeses and little slivers were cut off for us to sample before we made our choice. After we had a taste of each one it was a “oh go on then , a wee bit of each” moment.We eventually decided to be sensible and opt for the best of the bunch.The cheese , as expected was mostly all French , perfectly matured and a good selection of the various types, soft, creamy , hard , goats……Fabulous.
Richard the Maitre `D returned to see how we were , he already knew the answer as he simply told us “you dont need to speak as the smile says it all”…he was right. He had come to offer us a little break from the food at this point and to take us off into the magical kingdom and to meet all the chefs.Could this get any better ? The kitchen was all glass fronted so the diners could see the action inside.We went into the heart of the
machine to meet the head chef in Mr Koffmanns absence , his name just slips me now but he was a lovely guy , took us through all of the sections , hot starters , pastry , and mains.The kitchen was running like a well oiled machine , everyone smiling and the only miss was Chef Pierre himself ,apparently we had just missed him…fingers
crossed for next time.
Time for the sweets , and once again i had decided weeks ago that there was only one choice for me….Classic Lemon tart.( £9 ). The Koffmann signature dessert “Pistachio souffle” was heading up the menu and highly recommended but although no doubting that it would be wonderful , i dont really eat souffle in restaurants , too much of the same thing at every mouthful…just lots of flavoured air.The superstar chefs always say that there should be a classic lemon tart on the menu at every good restaurant , i have to agree.Back when Koffmann had his 3 stars at Le Tante claire it was always the mark of a good restaurant , Both Roux restaurants , Marco , Nico Ladenis , Anton Mosimann , Raymond Blanc…..they never had it off their menus.The Lemon tart came with Lemon sorbet and paired up with a nice glass of chilled Sauternes 2003 was a taste combination that i just didnt want to end….once again , i crave more.
My dining companion opted for the creme brulee , unfortunately for him he didnt get his own way and was told “sorry sir , i have to insist you have the Oeuf a la neige caramelisee ( £9)…..” Ermmmmmm , okay ” it was a done thing.It also turned out to be a fine dessert as well.A huge scoop of sweet whisked egg meringue gently poached in flavoured milk , coated with crispy caramel and floating on an island of vanilla creme anglaise…He was happy.
Little treats of what tasted like passion fruit marshmallow accompanied the well priced coffee (£3.50) …..and by then , we had well and truly topped up from the previous nights meal at Darroze….no more food….please.
Richard returned once again to kindly offer us time to let our food settle and then join the chefs for the “Trotter rolling” in their kitchen.A fantastic treat but unfortunately it was the end of our fun trip to London and the amazing food of Koffmann and a train to catch back to the Lake district, back to the reality of working in the real world again.
And for anyone who hasn`t experienced Koffmanns cuisine ,I cannot put it any straighter than this - It`s simply one of those things that should be on the list of “The top 100 things to do before you die”.