Pig's head is not an ingredient normally associated with Kaspia, the 11-year-old London restaurant more famed for its caviare. But things have changed at the 50-seat eaterie since William Cooper, formerly sous chef under Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire, was appointed head chef four weeks ago.
A brawn terrine, made using meat stripped from the snout, ears and tongue after boiling pigs' heads with herbs and spices, is one example of the dishes Cooper is using to make his mark at the restaurant, with the help of his four-strong brigade.
While Kaspia features a menu offering an extensive selection of caviares identical to those of its Parisian sister restaurant, Cooper is hoping to encourage the caviare-eating customers to have a three- or four-course meal from his à la carte menu, served by a front of house team of five led by manager Augustin Laragan.
Diners, who number around 30 at both lunch and dinner, spend an average of £40 excluding drinks, or £18 for a set lunch of Lomo ham with plum tomato bruschetta, roasted lamb neck with chèvre cream, and black pepper ice-cream, which is proving popular.
There are five choices each of starters, main courses and desserts. Warm home-salted cod, asparagus and soft-boiled egg, new potatoes and sabayon of chives (£8.95) is a favoured starter, as is the consommé of tomato with basil and langoustine with a separate serving of sevruga caviare (£12).
Among the most frequently chosen main courses are confit of salmon with saucisse de morteau, braised little gem, goats' cheese cream and pomme purée (£17.95), and roasted rib-eye of beef, gorgonzola butter with a bruschetta of bone marrow, black truffles and parsley (£19.50).
Popular desserts include vanilla and lemon panna cotta with praline and strawberries and Sauternes juice, and a bitter chocolate tart with orange jelly mascarpone (both £5.95).
The majority of dishes are classically orientated as a result of Koffman's influence, and one of the French chef's recipes - pigs' trotters stuffed with sweetbreads and morels - made an early appearance on the Kaspia menu. "There is so much modern food going on in London where chefs are mixing up flavours," says Cooper, "but I think there should be a return to good, simple cooking."
Kaspia London, 18A Bruton Place, Mayfair, London W1X 7AH. Tel: 0207 493 2612
Open: Mon-Sat, 12-3pm, 7-11.30pm