I’ve been hearing people in the food world talk about Pierre Koffmann’s famous pig’s trotters since I started writing about food. Ditto I’ve listened to chefs rhapsodise about Koffmann’s “immense” presence at his legendary La Tante Claire restaurant – whose famously difficult kitchen trained hoards of now Michelin-starred chefs in their own right – years before I, or the rest of my generation had a chance to experience it.
When I went to Rungis with the chef he struck me as a quiet, thoughtful but mischievously twinkling personality, and this – combined with his gentle rapport with the others chefs, made it difficult to imagine the intense and frightening patriarch I’ve so often heard described or read about. While wandering through the gigantic market just outside Paris, Koffmann told me that the tripery was his favourite part of it, and again there was talk and banter from the other chefs about his famous swine foot fetsish.
So when I found myself tucking into what Giles Coren vividly and borderline-disgustingly referred to as “the thick, wobbling, amber tube of skin, the richly textured paste of the glands stuffed inside,” at his pop-up restaurant on the fifth floor of Selfridges, I was pretty happy. The amuse bouche of rillettes was a humble, but apt and perfectly executed opener, and my starter of lobster cocktail, with its satin-smooth avocado mousse and fiercely citrus cubes of lemon jelly surrounding great hunks of pink meat was a lovely way in.
But it was the trotter that (please forgive me) walked it. Cutting into it I felt that same wave of excitement I used to get when groping down into my Christmas stocking (which I did up until the age of 23), so lovingly packed full of fun by my mother. Slicing through the wibbling, glossy skin and finding the luxuriant veal sweetbreads inside, punctuated with morels and light chicken mousse was an utter delight – their textures creamy against the salty intensity of the pig.
For pudding I went for the pistachio soufflé – this being another one Koffmann’s signature dishes, and while it was light, fluffy and perfectly risen as a well-mastered soufflé should be – I found it overly sweet. The accompanying pistachio ice cream was nice, but I have it on good authority that the pistachio ice cream a few floors down at The Icecreamists boutique is better. Saying that, I am not a huge pudding person – despite my previous efforts – and nothing was ever going to top the pure lusciousness of my first ever Koffmann trotter.
With the restaurant having been extended to a month, rather than its original schedule of just running for the length of the London Restaurant Festival of which it is the main attraction – there are whispers about the Gascon chef returning more permanently. And while, at £110 a head including wine (between three), I certainly couldn’t afford to eat there often, I’d welcome this living legend back onto the London scene with fittingly pig-like squeals of excitement. What about you?