Editor's note: the restaurant will close in December 2016 due to redevlopmnet of the hotel. Hopefully it will move elsewhere.
Pierre Koffmann’s return to London cooking (he is now 68 years old) gives a new generation a chance to savour the cooking that brought him three Michelin stars at La Tante Claire in Chelsea. Only ten chefs have ever won three stars in the UK (Albert Roux, Michel Roux, Nico Ladenis, Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, Alain Roux, Jocelyn Herland, Clare Smyth), to give you some idea of how rarifed is the company that he keeps. His restaurant Koffmann’s does not have that level of ambition, but the food is still spot on, whether you try dishes from the earlier era such as the famous stuffed pig trotters, or more modern fare. The head chef at this visit was notionally Jeremy Tevichet, though he is in fact on the move to be sous chef at the restaurant Plateau in Canary Wharf.
The wine list ranged from £25 up to an excessive £6,750 for Romanee Conti La Tache 1993 (a wine whose current market price is £1,945). Riesling Trimbach 2013 was £45 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Petit Trelans Domaine Alain Chabanon 2013 was £52 compared to a retail price of £14, and Domaine Michel Gros Nuits St George 2011 was £95 for a wine that will set you back £38 in a shop. Mark-ups level barely moderate and in some cases actually increase as you ascend the list: Lagrange 2011 was £140 compared to its retail price of £50, Leoville Barton 2009 £275 for a bottle that costs £84 in a shop, and Pichon Baron 2005 an indefensible £550 for a label whose current market price is £120 (5.1 times retail price once you add service). It is a pity that the pricing structure here punishes those who might order better wines.
An amuse-bouche of pork croquette with tandoori mayonaisse was a very pleasant introduction to the meal, the spicing subtle but enough to enliven the meat (15/20). Bread is made from scratch in the kitchen and was excellent, the best of all being a delicate, sweet brioche (16/20 average).
Squid “Bolognese” involves squid cut into thin shreds to resemble pasta. In a multi-stage process, the squid tentacles and body are prepared separately before the squid ribbons are served with a ragout of tomato, parsley and chilli flakes. This is a clever dish that does not compromise on flavour, the squid being tender and the ragout being quite robust (16/20).
Beef Wellington is a classic dish yet difficult to execute well. The beef here was cooked beautifully, surrounded by a cushion of mushroom duxelle inside a casing of excellent pastry. This was terrific, and a gratin dauphinoise on the side was unusually good too, having lovely texture (17/20). Dover sole was carefully cooked and served on the bone, served with grenobloise, a sauce of capers, tomato, lemon and parsley butter (15/20).
For dessert, lemon tart had excellent pastry and a nicely balanced filling, not too sharp (16/20). Pistachio soufflé is the signature dessert here from Tante Claire and it is as good as I remember it. The soufflé itself is light and airy, the pistachio flavour intense – a lovely, pillowy dish to finish the meal (19/20).
Service was very good. Coffee was from Drury, one of the better London suppliers. The bill came to £181 a head, but that was with plenty of serious wine. A more typical cost per head would be £90, and there is a set lunch for three courses available at £26 before drinks and service.