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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.



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I would imagine that the buzz and excitement at the pop up (I loved it, went twice) was partly because of his return after the long absence and partly because it's the nature of short term events where there is a lot of demand - getting a place feels great, it creates an added buzz.

Re bloggers, I take photos of each dish. I use a small point and shoot and do not use flash. And it's a single shot of each dish and move on with the meal. It takes seconds, I aim not to be too intrusive even to diners on my own table. It certainly should not impact those on other tables.

I would hasard a guess that it's the use of flash that makes it both noticable and intrusive.

I'm not sure what you mean by your plea. You ask bloggers to not take photos in high end restaurants and yet you end your plea by saying that the flash is very distracting. And yet I know of many bloggers who do not use flash when taking photos; they're also very inobtrusive and the photo taking is finished in a flash (haha) and everyone settles down to eat like normal people.

BTW, it's not just bloggers who take photos of their food...

@Kavey, it's definitely the flash I take issue with. Although, I do also find it annoying when people get out massive SLRs, stand-up and start dancing around their tables.

@Su-Lin, unfortunately I've had many experiences where it's not over in a flash. And you know what, my preference is that none of my meal is disturbed - not even a little bit.

Agreed on the annoyingness of flash. Though the last time I was disturbed by camera flash in a restaurant, it wasn't down to bloggers but to a reporter from the Southwark News.

Flash is definitely NOT cool in a restaurant and I have a problem with SLR's too. I find it embarrassing if someone gets one out a table - cringworthy stuff. I'll use my camera in a restaurant but it's small, I whip it out very fast, take one photo and then put it away - over in seconds. None of that turning the plate around and around to get a good shot either, I go to a restaurant to enjoy the experience and I want to focus on enjoying the company of the people I am with and of course, the food. I also make a judgement at the time. I've been for meals for example where it just wouldn't have been possible that no-one could have noticed me whip the camera out and away again and in those circumstances, I'll refrain. Or, if I'm with someone I know will find it embarrassing, even if it's only a couple of seconds, I'll leave the camera alone.

Helen, I wish more people used that sort of judgement.

Kake, obviously it's not just bloggers, tourists do it as well.  But only a particular breed of tourist is keen on recording every meal.

I have to say, my experience was quite ho hum – not enough intensity plus there is a disconnect between the room and the food. http://www.gastroenophile.com/2010/08/koffmanns-walk-on-mild-side.html

Thanks for your comment Bruce.  It seems to me that there are quite divided opinions on Koffmanns, between those that love the entire experience and others who were a bit underwhelmed.

I don't know...I feel like I spent a lot of time with bloggers in London, whipping out cameras in restaurants, and I don't know anyone who uses a flash? Did you recognize said "blogger"? Or are you just assuming it was a blogger because they took pictures of food? Especially once you get into SLRs and 50/1.8 lenses, you don't really need a flash. Also, if you use the macro setting on a compact, normally no flash needed there either. So personally, in my opinion, it wasn't a blogger. Or if it was, it was a newbie.

You're right about the photographs - a restaurant with as high profile a PR as this (Maureen Mills, Network London) really ought to provide pictures. As it is that firm seems to take pride in not even having a web site.

@Krista no I didn't recognise the blogger, but it's a trait that bloggers started.  Newbie or not I'm firmly of the view that people need to think long and hard about getting out their cameras.  Disturbing other diners is not good and I know that most bloggers would be only too keen to note if their meal was being interrupted by other pesky diners. 

@Douglas I understand a pr firm not promoting themselves - they're not the story - but you'd have thought the restaurants would try harder. 

I was taking photos of my food long before I became a blogger as a way of memorizing experiences. And I got that from my dad who will turn 70 this month! I'm just saying...

Yes, tourists, or even people celebrating like to get involved, however it can become too much when the flash is involved. I guess its a case of getting a feel for what is, and what isn't acceptable and act accordingly......

Absolutely agreed re flash. I nearly had words with someone recently using one nearby.

I rarely take my camera out anymore when I am eating but when I do, I absolutely do not use the flash, and take a couple of quick snaps, without moving in my seat. It's just rude otherwise!

Glad to hear it Niamh

Bloggers obsessively take pictures of their food cos it's a damn sight easier than writing about it. Hence their blogs are nearly all food shots.

a) eating is not bird watching, stop 'twitching'!
b) a shitty blog shot does not do chef any favours
c) it ruins the element of surprise for anyone who hasnt eaten there yet
d) flash or not, it's just wrong by any standards of civilised behaviour.

I often want to get up and force feed these callow youths their own Nikons.

I cannot recall ever seeing a dish shot in a major newspaper review.

Pauline I agree it's frustrating. But If you've never seen a review have a photo of food, then you've not read a review in a UK paper. They always have photos. The difference is that they are taken after the meal by a professional.

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