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2 posts from October 2010

27 October 2010

Koffmanns (& a plea to other bloggers)

I don't think there's a whole lot I can add to the flood of reviews on Koffmann's, most of which I fully agree with.  But I do want to make a quick comparison with my meal last year at Pierre Koffmann's pop-up at Selfridges.

The one thing that stood out about the Selfridges meal was how much fun the meal was.  As I said in my post I'm not sure what made it such fun, but it definitely was. Perhaps it came down to everyone's excitement at getting to eat Koffmann's food again.

There wasn't such a sense of fun in the room at The Berkeley.  There were lots of tourists, or business lunches (in my case) and too many bloody flashes going off, although there were a fair few of those at Selfridges as well.  However, what the room lost in buzz, the food itself more than made-up for.  It felt like the restaurant is properly in its stride compared to the meal at Selfridges.

What with the whole kosher thing, I gently turned away the offer of the pigs trotter amuse and this was swiftly replaced with a delicious plate of pickled, slightly curried cauliflower, with what I think was a balsamic reduction.  It sounds odd, and looked rather lurid, mustard yellow cauliflower, deep red sauce, but tasted delicious, the cauliflower was sharp, with gentle heat from the curry, set off by the sweetness of the reduction.  My main course of seabass was similarly delicious.  It was very unfussy, a great piece of fish well cooked.  Special mention must be made of the chips, they're outstanding.

In other words, Koffmann definitely has his mojo back.  I'd like to go back at night and see how the room compares, if the buzz is back. 

I want to finish with a request of my fellow diners: please can all bloggers stop using cameras in high-end restaurants.  I'm not saying this as a blogger who can't take photos for toffy and am jealous at other's skills.  I'm saying this as someone who goes out to enjoy my meal.  I leave others alone during their dinners and I'd really appreciate the same courtesy extended to me.  Restaurants should accept that bloggers are here to stay and want to photograph.  I therefore suggest that they provide a library of high quality photos, of a selection of dishes for people to use.  I know this isn't ideal.  I know that if a car-crash of a dish turns up someone will sneak out their iphone and tweet about it.  But seriously, flash is not cool in a restaurant.

Google Maps

Koffmann's, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London, SW1X 7RL, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7235 1010

What others think

Matthew Norman - We...departed this wearyingly neutral joint unable to share the staff’s discernible conviction that it had been our privilege to eat under the Koffmann banner
Matthew Fort - Whether you go big, or go light, by the time you finish, you will know that you have eaten, and eaten splendidly.


11 October 2010

Passion at last: Gefiltefest

Most of the time I cannot help but feel despondent about kosher food.  External threats, in particular to shechita are a regular occurence, but appear to be gaining a particular head of steam at the moment with some illogical legislation that is passing through the European Parliament. 

The really depressing thing though is the attitude of the community itself.  There is a saying, ask two Jews a question and you'll get three opinions.  Yet, it seems to me that when it comes to food, this argumentative community goes mute and loses its critical faculties.

Consumers don't seem to care what they're eating.  Producers, regulators and suppliers are seemingly happy with the status quo given the lack of dynamism.  As a result, when we face a threat like we are currently doing from the European Parliament, there are very few knowledagable advocates for kashrut. 

Lots of people can tell you the laws of kashrut and the religious reasons for keeping them.  Very few can defend it in a wider context, can argue against the incorrect view that shechita is cruel or that stunning animals is humane.  Very few are willing to fight to be heard that some of the inherent rules of kashrut do mean that animals are better cared for than in many secular abattoirs.  Equally, there are very few people who walk into a kosher supermarket and balk at the unseemly quantity of over-processed foods that weigh down the aisles.

And then Gefiltefest happens and my hope starts to be restored.  On a soggy Sunday almost 300 people gathered to discuss Jewish food.

Yes, calling something Gefiltefest is meshugah, but come on it is a brilliant name and I for one am ever so slightly peeved I didn't think of it first.  I suppose I could always start a rival, Schmaltzfest. 

Anyway, whilst the name may have got my attention initially, what warmed my heart was seeing so many people in one place, passionate about Jewish food.  True, there were a lot of eccentrics, but I've come to realise that all too often campaigners are denigrated for what makes them so interesting.

It wasn't just an opportunity to fress, although there was plenty of that.  It was also an opportunity to learn, discuss and think about what next.  And as you might gather from the adage above, there were a lot of opinions, but in my view, now is exactly the time we need some vigorous debate.

The talks I went to were diverse and pretty fascinating:  Maureen Kendler on the history of Jewish cookbooks; Kevin Sefton on the attempt for making the Jewish community self-sufficient in Rosh Hashanah honey or Leon Pein on organic kosher food.  I didn't agree with everything I heard, some of it was pretty wacky, but everyone cared deeply.

I was delighted to hear from organiser Michael Leventhal that Gefiltefest 2011 is already booked for May 22nd.  My wishlist for that event would be for it to have kosher food, but delicious, interesting and exciting food provided by someone passionate with what they're serving.  This is not a plea for the same old viennas and latkes (however tasty they may be).  I'd like to discover small kosher producers and suppliers, again people with a passion.  I'd love to hear a debate between a kosher caterer, a butcher, a kosher shop owner and someone from the London Beth Din to discuss regulation and food pricing.  Organising the programme is not my thing, I'll leave that to Michael.  I'll just offer up another opinion.