Koffmann’s, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1

Pierre Koffmann, the French master chef, is back – and this time he's bringing his own potato farmer

The smell of fresh paint. The hushed air of expectation. The plethora of staff – suited, booted and keen as mustard. It could only be week one of a major new restaurant opening...

Pierre Koffmann was a three-Michelin-starred master of French cuisine in London for more than 30 years, till he retired from La Tante Claire. Most sixty-somethings would relax into retirement but, last year, Koffmann was lured back behind the stoves for a heralded stint at Selfridges with a pop-up restaurant on the roof.

It must have reawakened his taste (no pun intended) for cooking, as here we are in Koffmann's, his new restaurant in The Berkeley hotel, once the site of Gordon Ramsay's Petrus and Boxwood Café (what a game of musical sauté pans: Koffmann had La Tante Claire in the Berkeley briefly six or so years ago, after selling its original site to Ramsay).

So, to lunch, which is always dicey for a reviewer in the first few days of an opening. The staff are, one assumes, primed for the arrival of either recognisable critics (hello Adrian, Fay, Giles, Jay) or anonymous ones (er, me) who hold on to a menu long enough to make notes.

In charge of the room is Claire, an infectiously enthusiastic woman who turns out to be Pierre's partner. "I don't know what I'm doing here," she confides. "I'm actually a potato farmer." This, as it turns out, is significant.

The sommelier, Mark Botes, is charm itself and despite the demands of my overwhelmingly expense-account fellow diners, is delighted to suggest a couple of wines for my guest, Mr Higgins, who later raves about his Bourgueil "Cuvée Binette", Domaine de la Chevalerie 2007 (£7).

After a quick peruse of the artfully placed books on a mezzanine floor complete with easy chairs, presumably in case any weary diner needs a rest on the way to the loo after a hefty pig's trotter – we settle in at our elegant table and await the gourmand experience. The restaurant's website describes the atmosphere as convivial bonhomie, which is true in a muffled, privileged kind of a way.

Koffmann's food – particularly from the three-course set menu; a steal at £22.50 – doesn't disappoint. My tuna carpaccio with celeriac remoulade is dazzling – translucent discs of very, very fresh fish with deftly judged seasoning and a punchy, creamy spoonful of root vegetable at the centre. I'm in love. Mr Higgins, on loan for the occasion and something of a southern French food specialist (well, he spent a year nesting near Perpignan), gets all misty-eyed over cassolette d'escargots et girolles (£12): a dear little pot filled with bright green, garlicky foam and buttery mash, with a generous helping of snails and mushrooms – interchangeable in shape and size but delivering different taste bombs.

My confit duck is a sticky treat, but on a warm summer's day, perhaps not the best choice; in fact, most of the dishes are the kind of hearty French fare that lends itself best to chilly evenings. Higgins looks askance at his thick tranche of calves' liver Lyonnaise (£22) but, I notice, polishes it all off, declaring it more tender and light than it looks (yeah, but I bet he breakfasted on foie gras in France). He has mash with his liver, I have roast new potatoes with my duck – so far, so standard. But our side dishes include a curl of newspaper (that day's Le Monde, ooh la la!) holding superbly crunchy chips, and lots of them. Chef wants to showcase his partner's produce, it seems, and who am I to complain? I love my carbs.

We make pitiful attempts to stave off furred arteries with melon soup, and a bowl of marinated cherries with fromage frais. The latter might be the poshest Müller Corner I've ever eaten. And the way in which the cherries have been pitted is elegant, can you believe? It's the little details like that, and the stellar quality of the butter, that make this such a class act.

We've failed to have the signature dishes of stuffed pig's trotter or pistachio soufflé (work precludes waiting 20 minutes for the master to assemble this wobbly delight). We've had major food envy over our neighbours' lunch, a whole roast Black-leg chicken (£40) of which they eat just the breast. I want their leftovers to become my doggy bag, but it's not that kind of joint.

Overlook the slightly corporate-luxury vibe that vintage books and mismatched glass lamps can't disguise, and visit Koffmann's before the hordes book it from now till Christmas. Stick to the set menu and good-value carafes of wine and you'd be struggling to find a better deal in Knightbridge, or anywhere else.

8/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Koffmann's, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1, tel: 020 7245 1010. Lunch and dinner, daily. £80 for two with wine (including one set menu)

Chefs at their peak

21212

3 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland, tel: 0845 222 1212

This plush Carlton town house is where chef/patron Paul Kitching delivers his trademark wackily creative cuisine (last seen at Juniper, near Manchester; RIP). Some say it's the most exciting dining in town

Bistrot Bruno Loubet

The Zetter, St John's Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1, tel: 020 7324 4455

A triumphant return from Down Under for Loubet – a star London chef of the 1990s – the essentially French-Shoreditch bistro menu is spiced up with Antipodean twists

The Walnut Tree

Llandewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Gwent, tel: 01873 852 797

Shaun Hill has achieved a special mix of astonishing value and outstanding cooking at this brilliantly revitalised Welsh institution

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'. www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015