Culinary legend Pierre Koffmann's pop-up restaurant at Selfridges was initially scheduled to run for five days, but demand has been so high it has been extended another three weeks. Kerstin Kühn reports
One minute they're there; the next they've gone. Pop-up restaurants come and go, often without much publicity. After all, by the time the restaurant critics have published their reviews, the place may already be closed again.
Not this one. When a culinary legend such as Pierre Koffmann returns to the stove, everyone wants to shout about it, and his pop-up restaurant on top of Selfridges has been one of the industry's most talked-about events this year.
Part of the inaugural London Restaurant Festival, the Pierre Koffmann Restaurant on the Roof was initially scheduled to run for five days but the demand was so overwhelming it was extended to run from 8 to 31 October.
Ewan Venters, food and restaurants director at Selfridges, says demand was unprecedented.
"While we always anticipated Pierre Koffmann was popular, we underestimated the relevance he has had on a whole generation of foodies," he says.
Koffmann ran La Tante Claire for 25 years, first on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea and then in the Berkeley hotel. His culinary style, a refined version of the country cooking of his home region of Gascony in south-west France, gained him three Michelin stars and inspired countless other chefs, including Gordon Ramsay and Phil Howard.
Housed in a marquee on top of the Oxford Street department store, the 80-cover Pierre Koffmann Restaurant on the Roof has been designed, set up and managed by Selfridges, with its high-profile sommelier Dawn Davies overseeing the front of house. All produce comes from Selfridges' suppliers.
"I'm not involved in the organisation of the restaurant - the only thing I know is cooking so I'll be in the kitchen and that's that," explains Koffmann. "At first I thought I might do some new things but after talking with old customers and friends they all said I should do the classic dishes; the ones I'm well known for."
The menu, priced at £75 for three courses, offers six starters, mains and desserts. The dining experience kicks off with an amuse-bouche of lobster bisque with potato foam, a simple dish so intense in flavour it sets the tone for the meal to come.
Starters include Koffmann's famous foie gras dish, which comes pan-fried atop a crispy potato galette with roasted garlic and Sauternes jus plus a bright green apple purée that perfectly counterbalances the richness of the duck liver.
New dishes include a light cocktail of Scottish lobster and avocado, with a lemon jelly adding summery freshness.
The mains start with Koffmann's legendary stuffed pig's trotter with veal sweetbreads and morel mushrooms. It has inspired interpretations by some of the best chefs, including Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc, but has also quite clearly stood the test of time.
Other main courses include a chunky pavé of wild sea bass served with a rich jus and artichoke barigoule, as well as a tender English roast veal cutlet with girolles mushrooms.
Another iconic dish tops the dessert list - Koffmann's pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice-cream. Light and fluffy, it rises a full two inches above its ramekin, a definite highlight to finish off the meal.
Fresh walnut tart with chestnut honey ice-cream is a nod to the seasons, as is a Gascon apple pie.
Koffmann will be joined in the kitchen by some of his former protégés: the Michelin-starred chefs Eric Chavot, Tom Aikens and Tom Kitchin as well as Raphael Duntoye, Helena Puolakka and chocolatier William Curley, who will create a separate menu to represent their respective restaurants.
The wine list, overseen by Davies, comprises 350 bins and offers something for every budget. Next to Old World classics from France and Italy, it also includes a good selection of British wines.
This pop-up restaurant is more than a flash in the pan; Koffmann is back where he belongs, in a kitchen, and one can only hope that this is just the beginning of his comeback.
The 80-cover restaurant has been designed, set up and managed by Selfridges
Pierre Koffmann Restaurant on the Roof, Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB, Tel: 020 7318 7778
WHAT'S ON THE MENU
- Pressed leeks and langoustines with a truffle vinaigrette
- Fricassée of wild mushroom and snails with bone marrow
- Game pithiver with a jus corsé
- Challans duck roasted with herbs and spices
- Royale de lièvre with red cabbage
- Roast cod with cèpes
- Gascon apple pie
- Toscano chocolate mousse, orange compote and Muscavado ice-cream
- Pain perdue with sweet pineapple and coconut ice-cream