So having been slightly snotty about the Selfridges pop-up restaurant at the end of my Rules review, of course I did actually go in the end. And it was pretty good, a fitting 40th birthday present for my friend Mark, who must be beginning to think I have a one-track, three-star mind when it comes to organising celebrations to mark significant life events. Fortunately for my wallet I don't think he's got any more on the horizon.
I won't keep you long with this write-up, partly because there's only so much you can/should say about a restaurant whose very existence is so ephemeral but mostly because I have a backlog of other places I need to write about and frankly, if you haven't been already the chances are you ain't going to by the end of the week. Although stay tuned if you are keen, I may be able to help.
Anyway, for anyone who's been living in splendid isolation for the last couple of months, a temporary restaurant in a marquee on the roof of Selfridges marked the return to London of chef legend Pierre Koffman, the first winner of three Michelin stars in a UK restaurant. He retired in the early 90s, closing Tante Claire and maintaining his mystique by staying largely out of the way, aside from occasional spots as a special guest to be cooked for on MasterChef. Meanwhile Gordon Ramsay, now with his own three stars on Royal Hospital Road has spent those years collecting improbable numbers of further baubles apparently without ever being off the box. Have a guess who's more popular among the foodie fraternity...
If you'd been at Selfridge's two weeks ago you wouldn't have needed to. It was like a who's who of food bloggers up there, with a couple of bona fide journalists thrown in for good measure. Pierre's wife Claire could scarcely believe how many big cameras get taken out to dinner these days. Mind you when she was last front-of-house mobile phones were the improbably bulky preserve of Noel Edmonds (who did he find to talk to?) and the coolest camera going may have looked like this, so perhaps things have moved on a bit...
Anyway, we had excellent quality food, including a fancy take on a prawn cocktail (with lobsters, natch), the famous pig's trotter stuffed with sweetbreads (mainly made famous by Marco Pierre White, but that's not bad as far as tributes go) and a fantastically deep hare creation, which seemed to be a clear winner. I claim the prize for dessert, though, with a sublime pistachio soufflé.
Service was very good, contrary to the experience of several others who went that week. I suspect this had less to do with having a Guardian journalist on our table and more to do with the fact that it had only been open a couple of days. Given that some restaurants spend months or even years perfecting their service it's hardly surprising that one only open for a 21 days in total can have its inconsistencies. And, yes, we did get petit fours (another source of confusion and contention among jealous rivals that week).
Overall, it was a lot of fun. A slightly surreal taste of what three-star restaurant dining might have been like 20-odd years ago but not of three-star dining today, if only because of the random service and the fact that you're dining in a tent. But certainly a fun night out, especially with the addition of a few cocktails at Claridge's afterwards.
At £75 for three courses it's a fair whack, but the fact that it's Koffman at the helm means this is a very rare opportunity and, in my book at least, it definitely also qualified as a treat.
If you want to sample this for yourself I have a lunch for two booked on Friday (30 Oct) and I'm not going to be able to make it. Leave a comment with an email address (I won't publish it) and I'll let you have the details.