I live an ordinary life. Some ups, some downs, and plenty of routine daily stuff inbetween. I have no complaints, and I’m more than happy with my lot.
But once every so often, I have moments of realisation – moments of thankfulness, even, for the sheer wonder of life and the pleasures it brings. It is not overstating things to say that my meal on Tuesday evening at Pierre Koffman’s ‘pop-up’ restaurant on the roof at Selfridges was one such moment.
I don’t want to sully the memory by giving a detailed blow-by-blow account of each course. I’m a food blogger, not a master of culinary wizardry, and I doubt I could find the words, frankly, or accurately identify all the ingredients or technical skill which comprised the taste extravaganza. In any case, others have already done that task for me and taken the photographic evidence, too.
For the record, we (two of us) ate our way through fricassee of wild mushrooms with snails and bone marrow, and pressed leeks and langoustines with a truffle vinaigrette to start; followed by Koffmann’s legendary pig’s trotter stuffed with veal sweetbreads and morel mushrooms, and royale de lièvre; and to finish, a warm chocolate mousse with malt ice cream, and Toscano dark chocolate mousse layered with hazelnut dacquoise, served with orange yogurt ice cream and Yuzu jelly. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the meal was prefaced by a langoustine bisque with a herb crème Chantilly, and tailed with a generous plate of assorted petits fours.
From start to finish, and without exception, the food was exquisite. If I had to pick my personal highlight, my epiphany, then I’d single out the pig’s trotter. Why? Because it was infinitely more pleasurable than I could ever have imagined, and quite possibly the most wonderful thing I have ever eaten (and I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at some rather special places over the years). I’ve had trotter several times before, but nothing could have prepared me for just how exceptional Koffman’s version was. I can’t improve on the adjectives others have already used: unctuous, silken, gelatinous, rich, intense, delicate, elegant, creamy, ambrosial. It was all those, and still more, as was the ‘mash’ which accompanied it. Never, in my experience, has the humble mashed potato tasted so utterly divine.
Suffice to say this was a meal that far exceeded the sum of its parts. Added to that, the service was friendly to a fault, immaculate throughout, and enhanced by the warm and attentive presence of Claire, Koffman’s partner. A more welcoming host you’d be very hard pushed to find.
The actual restaurant structure, too, completely surpassed expectations – sumptuously and imaginatively decorated and furnished (all Selfridges’ own work, apparently), with only the somewhat bouncy floors betraying its impermanence.
In short, I all but gave thanks to God while I was there (and I speak as someone who havers between atheism and agnosticism). I gave them instead to Claire. And no, I haven’t taken leave of my senses or critical faculties. I’m aware, too, that not everybody has been wholly ecstatic, and that there have been a few inconsistencies and niggles along the way.
All I can say is my own experience was flawless and memorable for all the best reasons, and for that I am truly grateful. What’s more, I’m happy to report that there IS a god, and he’s alive, well, and currently cooking majestic food in a restaurant touching the heavens above Selfridges.