It’s nice to be in the know for once. I seem to miss all announcements of secret gigs from artists I love, moan that I can never catch some in particular, and feel like I am sometimes viewing it all from the sidelines. Bring on twitter and the democratisation of information and watch that dissipate. Follow the people into the same things as you, and hey presto, you find out stuff!
When the Selfridge’s popup restaurant details were leaked on Bloomberg, and subsequently spread through twitter like a fast burning flame, I, with others, clamoured for a table, chosing Monday lunchtime, thinking it would surely be the day least in demand. Originally the restaurant was only to open from the 8th to the 16th of October (it’s now extended to the end of October and is fully booked). I was successful and have been anticipating it since, reading other reviews, following the tweets, and waiting my turn.
Monday 12th came around quickly. I’d had an intense previous 4 days. The Covent Garden Real Food Market was running all weekend, and that meant 4 days of 5am starts to bake bread and cook soups etc., followed by long days on my feet working hard, and more cooking when I got home every evening. Insert slep where you can and try to retain a sense of humour.
The morning of my lunch reservation I had a 6.45am meeting, and another subsequently, and immeidately prior to lunch. I ached everywhere but I refused to let tiredness and soreness ruin the day. I managed to snatch 15 minutes prior to lunch, and had an indulgent small glass of Marlborough Pinot Noir in The Wonder Bar at Selfridge’s while waiting for my friend to arrive.
Pierre Koffman is previously of seminal restaurant La Tante Claire, a three michelin starred restaurant in London which closed its doors in 2002. In 2002 I was relatively fresh off the boat in London, and skint, desperately seeking work in an city that was saturated with graduates and at that time, lacking in work. It just wasn’t an option.
Inspired by his Gascon grandmother, I was intrigued as to how this homely influence would reflect in his cooking which is of a three michelin starred standard. I’d heard a lot about his cooking, particularly his signature dish of trotter. I, like most others visiting, excited.
We were told to seek out a lift by the Chanel counter with a security guard by it and progress to the roof. Now I am not one of those girls that knows the intricacies of the layout of the perfume and make up counters in Selfridge’s and it won’t come as any surprise that I went to the wrong one. You see there are two. Now I know the food, kitchen and shoe sections very well, but the perfume and make up, not really. Last time I went to one there last year they asked me if I had ever worn make up before and that patronising attitude combined with the feeling of being in a shop window just does my head in.
I digress. We found the lift and were welcomed by a very friendly girl with the list of all people allowed into the lift that day. While we waited she had to explain to some very annoyed people why they couldn’t get the lift or go to the restaurant, she has to do it many times every day and has my sympathies. We arrived on the roof, the first thing we saw was the gents which was unfortunate, but then proceeded through a lovely white curtained hallway, past an excellent ghost chair to the reception. Very friendly and not remotely pretentious, they took our coats and bags and we proceeded to our table.
Now, the restaurant is a popup, and therefore temporary. Housed in a marquee on the roof of Selfridge’s, it was intensely bright and white with a lovely wedgewood blue wall at the end and lovely fixtures and fittings including suspended bowler hats down one side, some of which doubled up as light fittings. The chandliers made from antlers were familiar from a recent trip to The Bull and Last. It was all vert stylish. It was warm, very warm, and had a slight hum. I felt as though I were in one of those fanastical enormous balloons in the sky.
We perused the menu, it was all very apealing. Guest chef for our sitting was Eric Chavot. He had a starter and a main but we were both keen to try Koffman’s so we passed. The starter menu particularly was difficult to chose from. The main course was a bit easier, I felt as though I really should get the trotter, it’s the signature dish after all and might be a little challenging, but what if it’s too much so? I decided to take a risk and go for it, ordering a fricassee of wild mushrooms with snails and bone marrow for starters and pig’s trotter stuffed with veal sweetbreads and morel mushrooms. My friend ordered pan fried foie gras with a potato gallette and sauternes jus followed by royale de lievre with red cabbage.
Unfortunately, I had another meeting to attend after lunch so we had to go easy on the wine. This was a shame as food of this standard deserves fantastic wine and lots of it, however, I had to behave. We ordered some Valpolicella which was perfectly delicious, relatively full bodied but good for the afternoon.
We started with an amuse bouche of salted code which was delicate and flavoursome and definitely got my palette going. The starters arrived and were presented beautifully. Mine rested atop some roasted bone, and was scattered with mushrooms, bone marrow and snails. The snails particularly were cooked beautifully and were melt in the mouth tender but had an earthiness that was beautiful with the mushrooms. The bone marrow added an extra layer of umami and luxury, I couldn’t resist mopping up the juices with some bread. The foie gras was intensely rich, butter and extremely tender, there was some lovely bright green appley mousse served with it which cut right through it. Finished, we caught our breath, and I anxiously awaited the trotter.
The main courses arrived swiftly. The hare (lievre) looked fantastic but my focus was on the very visual trotter which had arrived. Brown and bold, it looked succulent, unctous and tender. I nervously put my knife in a took a peak at the delights within. I cut a morsel, the knife easily slicing through the tender skin and took a bite. I’d read that it was rich and intense but for me this was delicate and elegant with warming homely flavours. Savoury but depsite the contents not overwhelmingly meaty, it was creamy and ambrosial. The hare went down well, although personally, I find the tartness of hare meat a bit much for my palette. I could however apreciate the artistry at work here.
And breathe. By now the room was hot, over the top hot and I could feel my face was burning, but thankfully the sun was starting to set and the room was starting to cool down. The hum and the vibration by now was comforting, and we perused the dessert menu. I decided on the Gascon Apple Tart and my friend the Chocolate Mousse. The tart was intesnely sweet and caramelised, which would have been too much, but the accompanying vanilla cream calmed the otherwise full flavours, and provided a delicious counterpoint. The chocolate mousse was light and delicious, much lighter than I would have anticipated and very chocolatey as you would expect. This was followed by coffees and petits fours, although the peitits fours came as more of an afterthought. They were delicious but at this stage I was extremely full. I did really like the mini choux pastry and the truffles were divine. It was all lovely really.
Overall impressions? A lovely, worthwhile experience. Not perfect, the service was patchy at points, but this was compensated by the lack of pretence and overall air of friendliness and openness that was exuded. The food was elegant and flavouromse, rich but not overwhelming and perfectly executed. The space was pretty and bright and very unusual. I am only sorry that I can’t go again. Can I please?