Koffmann's at The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1

Twelve years ago, Gascon super-chef Pierre Koffmann sold his business on Chelsea's Royal Hospital Road to Gordon Ramsay, and moved Tante Claire, then considered to be London's finest restaurant, to a new home in Knightsbridge's Berkeley Hotel. There, it was assumed, a wider clientele would have the chance to experience the fabled, three-Michelin-starred cooking of this hugely influential chef, whose protégés include Tom Aikens, Tom Kitchin and Gordon Ramsay himself.

But things didn't quite work out that way, and the expensive formality of the transplanted Tante Claire never recaptured the spirit of the original. In my 1998 review, I likened it to being asked on a date by a fiftysomething merchant banker – a good thing, but I wasn't quite ready for it yet.

Eventually, the punctilious Koffmann, disaffected by the rigours and rituals required at that level of fine-dining, retired from the London restaurant scene, apart from a little light consultancy work.

Last year he was tempted out of semi-retirement to launch a rapturously received pop-up restaurant in Selfridges. Galvanised by that successful comeback, Koffmann, now 62, has returned full-time to the fray, and to the Berkeley Hotel, with a new restaurant in the space recently vacated by Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café.

Like a legendary rock star going back on the road for one last triumphant tour, Koffmann has returned to his roots, while playing all the big hits. His new restaurant, Koffmann's, may be slightly less formal than its predecessors, but there are no unexpected changes of musical direction.

Celebrating the gutsy cuisine of the chef's childhood in south-west France, Koffmann's offers a masterclass in evolved French cooking. This is food designed to be relished, rather than gazed at; the flavours huge, the reductions lip-stickingly intense. Starters include wood pigeon pie, scallops with squid ink and Gascon black pudding with sautéed apples. Mains include braised beef cheeks, calf's liver Lyonnaise, and whole roasted black-leg chicken, stuffed with bread and garlic. A reminder, in three sybaritic courses, of why we fell in love with French food in the first place.

In Koffmann's hands, traditional dishes are meticulously refined. A casserole of meaty snails and girolles on a bed of none-more-creamy mashed potato comes anointed with a herb foam conveying a whispered suggestion of garlic and parsley rather than the usual knock-out punch. Tiny shimmering scallops, poached in beurre blanc and Noilly Prat, are served on the shell they've been cooked in, still carrying traces of its pastry seal.

Roasted rabbit with Dijon mustard, the breast stuffed with an offal-rich forcemeat, is revelatory. But fabulous though all these dishes were, they were only the warm-up act to Koffmann's near-mythical signature dish: pig's trotter stuffed with sweetbreads and morels, the big hit of his career, widely covered but never bettered.

Koffmann may be condemned to perform it at every service, but clearly he's not just phoning it in. Extraordinary to look at, this gelatinous cornucopia, glazed to the sheen of burnished copper, yields maddeningly delicious mouthfuls of spiced pork, silky fat and delicate stuffing, right down to its pointy little toes, which I resorted to picking at like some deranged chiropodist.

The dishes come fully garnished – our sides included crisp, weightless pommes frites, served in a twist of French newspaper, a brasserie-style touch at odds with the high polish of the rest of the meal. A huge amount of work has clearly gone into the food, but nothing we ate felt effortful or overworked, apart, perhaps, from the desserts, a ho-hum pistachio soufflé with an unpleasantly synthetic aftertaste, and a "vacherin" of strained yoghurt with strawberries and powdery meringue.

Koffmann said before opening that he was aiming for an air of "convivial bonhomie", and the clientele did seem marginally younger and less suit-heavy than at Tante Claire. But as an experience, Koffmann's has more in common with the shrine than the brasserie, and feels about as informal as the Institute of Directors. Chairs are pulled out, waiters hover, and the all-French wine list offers no clues to the uninitiated. In the more relaxed modern style, some wines are available by the carafe, and the open kitchen allows a few tables to watch the master at the pass.

A discreet revamp has done little to lift a dining room that's never going to be party central. But the food is definitely, triumphantly vaut le voyage, and a three course set lunch for £22.50 puts it within reach of the hoped-for younger crowd. There may still be a touch of the fiftysomething merchant banker about Koffmann's new place, but this time around, I'm definitely ready for it.

Koffmann's at The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1 (020-7235 1010)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 3 stars
Service 4 stars

Dinner for two with wine, around £150. Set lunch, £18 for two courses, £22.50 for three courses

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Vive la France

Le Champignon Sauvage

24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham (01242 573449)

Dishes at this two-Michelin-starred eaterie include fillet of cod, squid ink risotto, seared squid and belly pork.

Terroirs

5 William IV Street, London WC2 (020-7036 0660)

Eat at the wine bar or in the restaurant at this atmospheric Parisian-style establishment with eclectic wine list.

Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons

Church Rd, Great Milton, Oxford (01844 278881)

The ultimate modern French cuisine at Raymond Blanc's famous two-Michelin-starred restaurant.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
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

    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...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick