Mr Koff­man and Mr White

Nancy Connolly speaks to celebrity chefs Marco Pierre White and Pierre Koff­mann in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view about their new restau­rant, Koff­mann & Mr White’s

Bath Chronicle - - INTERVIEW -

De­spite what many peo­ple think, both Marco pierre White and pierre Koff­mann are very hands-on at their new restau­rant. pierre spends five days a week in the kitchen, teach­ing young chefs how to de­liver high qual­ity food while Marco vis­its reg­u­larly and is al­ways tweak­ing the menu or ser­vice. Marco has had a love af­fair with Bath for many years and lives not far away on the out­skirts of Cor­sham, six miles from the city. He told W: “i ab­so­lutely love Bath and al­ways have done, it is my favourite city in the UK, i think it is beau­ti­ful and the ideal place to live. “i love liv­ing around here, i can be out in the coun­try in min­utes and i love trav­el­ling into the city. “the ar­chi­tec­ture and build­ings are beau­ti­ful, they re­mind me of paris and i love the Ro­man as­pect, per­haps it is be­cause i am half ital­ian,” said the cel­e­brated chef who was born and bred in Leeds. “i don’t like Lon­don, Bath is so much bet­ter. “i love the fact i can walk ev­ery­where. it’s great just wan­der­ing around Mil­som street. Bath is re­ally a very spe­cial place,” he said. Marco runs a ho­tel and restau­rant, Rud­loe Arms near Cor­sham where he also lives. set in 14 acres of Wilt­shire coun­try­side, it’s a beau­ti­ful old manor house with ex­quis­ite but cool con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors, large so­fas, big fires in the sit­ting rooms and the fam­ily dog run­ning free around the house. it is a lovely, small ho­tel where guests can en­joy seclu­sion, dis­creet lux­ury with var­i­ous art and large framed pho­to­graphs of the Bea­tles, el­ton John and Frank si­na­tra. A se­ri­ously cool place in the mid­dle of nowhere, Marco doesn’t even have to ad­ver­tise. “peo­ple just find us, they know where we are,” said the quirky Marco, known as the bad boy of the kitchen. He trained un­der pierre Koff­mann in Lon­don and worked with Gor­don Ram­say and many other fa­mous chefs, but he is best known for his no-non­sense at­ti­tude to food and peo­ple. De­spite be­ing warned about his moods and foibles, we found the clas­si­cally trained chef re­laxed at home charm­ing, even, and he gave us lots of his time to talk about Bath, his life and his new restau­rant. He said: “Koff­mann & Mr White’s is not about try­ing to get Miche­lin stars, it is about good food at af­ford­able prices in a brasserie style restau­rant in the cen­tre of Bath. “pierre is French and i am english so we have teamed to­gether to come up with a menu made up of clas­sic dishes from both coun­tries - just great clas­sic dishes with our own twist.” in pierre’s cor­ner is the clas­sic French onion soup, a favourite, snails à la bourgignon, assi­ette de char­cu­terie, cor­ni­chons, poulet de grand-mère and lots more. in Marco’s english cor­ner we have fried fil­let of had­dock, chips, mar­row fat peas and sauce tartare, a spe­cial shep­herd’s pie, shrimp curry and clas­sic fil­let steak with beef fat chips. You can sam­ple ei­ther from the French or english side of the menu but the main point is both chefs want to keep it sim­ple, just good clas­sic food with no fuss. Marco said: “We are not there to im­press peo­ple, we are there to feed peo­ple, it is as sim­ple as that.” Both chefs ad­mit there were some teething prob­lems when the restau­rant opened in Oc­to­ber, but say they have now ironed them out and have tweaked a few things. Be­ing the youngest chef to ever gain three Miche­lin stars, Marco shuns the award now. “i can think of noth­ing worse than go­ing to a Miche­lin-star restau­rant,” he says. “Food has be­come all about pre­sen­ta­tion; they have turned main dishes in to canapes. there’s never enough food on the plate. “ev­ery­one is whis­per­ing and wait­ers are al­ways fuss­ing over you, i re­ally don’t like it. “i went to a Miche­lin-star restau­rant re­cently and to be hon­est i would have paid not to have eaten it. it is not the kind of food i want to eat. there’s a lot of pre­tence about it,” he said. Where is his favourite place to eat in his favourite city of Bath (apart from Koff­mann & Mr White of course)? “that is a very easy ques­tion. Without a doubt and every time it is the scal­lop shell on Mon­mouth place. it’s su­perb; i go there all the time for the fresh fish and seafood. “i love the had­dock and the lan­goustines, and of course i make a chip butty and eat it with a pot of tea. “it is the best food in Bath and de­serves a Miche­lin star. Why can’t a chip shop have a Miche­lin star?” he said. the 57-year-old chef en­joys liv­ing in the coun­try­side near Bath and loves the out­door life. He has a stel­lar back­ground in cook­ing and be­gan his clas­si­cal train­ing as a com­mis with Al­bert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche. He con­tin­ued his train­ing un­der pierre Koff­man at La tante Claire, mov­ing to work in the kitchen of Ray­mond Blanc at Le Manoir, and later with Nico Lade­nis of Chez Nico at Ninety park Lane. in 1987 he opened Har­vey’s in Wandsworth Com­mon, Lon­don, where he won his first Miche­lin star al­most im­me­di­ately, and his se­cond a year later. Bath res­i­dents and well-known food­ies Jenny and David Rose vis­ited Har­vey’s 30 years ago, and say it was the best meal they have ever had - and it was cooked by Marco pierre White him­self. they even re­mem­ber what they had.

David said: “I will never for­get it. I had the pi­geon and Jenny had the steak. It was the best meal we ever had and it cost us £140, a huge amount at the time. We had to save up for it. Jenny said: “It was well worth it, the food was re­ally spe­cial. Marco Pierre White is a bril­liant chef, clas­si­cally trained, it re­ally was a night to re­mem­ber,” she said. These days the no­to­ri­ous chef, fa­mous as much for his pri­vate life as his cook­ing, lives a quiet life in his Wilt­shire hide­out. “I go to bet at 9pm and get up at 3am. It’s the best part of the day, so quiet and I get a lot of work done. “I have to travel a lot but I love liv­ing around here, and Pierre and I are very ex­cited about the new restau­rant at the Abbey ho­tel, it is a great lo­ca­tion and we hope to at­tract tourists, busi­ness peo­ple and lo­cal din­ers. “Restau­rants are all about hav­ing a good night out, the at­mos­phere, the food, the am­bi­ence. We want lo­cal peo­ple to come and just have a re­ally good time, that is what we are all about. “Our food is good value - sim­ple, clas­sic dishes at great prices in the cen­tre of the best city in the UK. Con­sis­tency is what we are all about so we will con­tinue to tweak ev­ery­thing un­til we get it just right,” he said. Did he go to the open­ing party re­cently? “No, I can’t think of any­thing worse. I don’t go to par­ties, weddings or funer­als, I just like do­ing my own thing,” he said. “But I re­ally love com­ing into Bath, eat­ing some good food, wan­der­ing around, it re­ally is my favourite city and that is why I wanted to open a restau­rant here, it is a great place to live and have fun,” he said. Pierre Koff­mann is one of the most re­spected mas­ter chefs in the coun­try, hav­ing trained many of the well known and cel­e­brated culi­nary gi­ants. He is one of a hand­ful of chefs in the UK to have been awarded three Miche­lin stars for his restau­rant La Tante Claire in Lon­don. Un­til De­cem­ber 2016 he was the head chef of Koff­mann’s at The Berke­ley ho­tel in Knights­bridge. He is like culi­nary roy­alty, but we found him very mod­est, down to earth and friendly when we caught up with him at the new restau­rant. He said: “I am not a celebrity chef. All I do is cook; it’s the only thing I know how to do, it is my pas­sion. “When I re­tired I re­ally missed it, I didn’t know what to do with my­self so I was so glad when I got the call from my old friend of 36 years, Marco. “I am here five days a week in the kitchen, my favourite thing is teach­ing new chefs what I know and pass­ing on my knowl­edge - that is my great­est en­joy­ment. “We had a few prob­lems at the start but we are get­ting there now, we have tweaked a few things and we have a re­ally great team. I need to teach them my habits and make sure they don’t cut cor­ners. “I love Bath, I didn’t know it very well be­fore but I knew Marco loves it here and knows it very well, so I was more than happy to come here. “Some peo­ple think we don’t spend time here but I am here nearly all the time, I stay here five nights a week and we are pas­sion­ate about it,” he said. “I am also a rugby lover so I am very happy to be here in Bath. I think peo­ple will like the restau­rant, it is clas­sic British and French food at a good price, and we have been very well re­ceived so far.” The chef, who is now 70, trav­els back and forth to Lon­don where he lives with his wife, Clare. “Marco and I are al­ways tweak­ing things - maybe a sauce needs some­thing ex­tra, maybe we need to add some­thing to a dish. It’s a col­lab­o­ra­tion, and we are used to work­ing to­gether. We’re very hands on and Bath is im­por­tant to us, I am very happy to be here,” he said. Koff­mann & Mr White’s is at the Abbey Ho­tel in North Pa­rade. Starters cost from £6.50 to £9.50, with mains from £12.50 to £32.50 for the steak au poivre. When we vis­ited, the rus­ti­cally re­designed restau­rant was fairly full with a nice buzz dur­ing the week­day lunchtime ser­vice. There was a lovely at­mos­phere and the food was very good in­deed. We chose the coq and shrimp curry and steak au poivre with beef fat chips. Both were de­li­cious, very good por­tions and our Ital­ian chef, Luca was charm­ing. The eggs maxim for starter was di­vine - the hol­landaise sauce won­der­fully rich but not too pow­er­ful and the poached eggs on por­to­bello mush­room and brioche were beau­ti­fully runny. The spe­cial goat’s cheese tart was also de­li­cious, the qual­ity of the cheese was par­tic­u­larly good and the pas­try de­li­ciously light. Pierre and his team are very care­ful about sourc­ing re­ally good in­gre­di­ents Pierre and Marco both say the West Coun­try is a great place to find good food to work with.

To book visit abbey­hotel­ or call 01225 805960.

There is an all-day a la carte menu, but they will be in­tro­duc­ing a ta­ble d’hote set course menu in Jan­uary.

Pho­tos by Ar­tur Les­niak

Above, Nancy Connolly chats to Marco Pierre White at his Wilt­shire home. Pic­tured left: Pierre Koff­mann with Marco.

photo by Arthur Les­niak.

Pierre Koff­man. Above: Marco Pierre White,

Photo: Ar­tur Les­niak

Jenny and David Rose still re­mem­ber how great their visit to Marco’s restau­rant Har­vey’s was.

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