Thursday, 16 July 2009
First of all, I must apologise for the heavy sepia photographs. I was loathe to use flash in the hushed atmosphere of what is one of London's most exciting new restaurants.
It was my birthday this time, a landmark one, and the air had been thick with heavy hints for months. Corrigan's Mayfair was a destination I wanted to make a bee-line for at the earliest opportunity. J safely secured a reservation (I'm not sure he felt brave enough to risk a wild card).
Richard Corrigan's new culinary triumph sits comfortably on a salubrious Mayfair street, a perfect match for the decadence, generosity, and Irish charm the restaurant exudes. We were initially seated at a small low table in the bar area, and felt rather cheated. We were a hair's breadth away from the restaurant proper, but sitting in what felt like a concourse, with nondescript bar music ringing in our ears. We asked the maître d' if we could be seated at a better table, and she happily obliged. The layout, low ceiling, and retro 1930's furniture reminded me of Locanda Locatelli's, and gave the room an intimate clubby feel. I would have liked to see a few less tables of businessmen clearly charging dinner to an expense account (who always seem to be there despite the food, rather than because of it), but they were rather jolly, and it was by no means going to put a dampener on the night.
Sipping two perfect G&T's, we were handed an A3 monster of a menu. Size is clearly everything: it was a masterpiece, a tour de force that made decision-making virtually impossible. Effortlessly merging British classics with seasonal and modern tastes, continental twists, and the odd nod to our friends across the channel, Richard Corrigan offers as many dainty, delicate dishes as he does big hitters. But where was the linguine in red wine with pecorino? This was a controversial dish when the restaurant first opened 6 months ago, and has since disappeared. We have made the dish at home (you can find the recipe in Corrigan's new cookbook, The Clatter of Forks and Spoons) and found it to be a winner.
After a plate of warm bread, including the wonderful signature Corrigan treacly soda bread, we started with Octopus carpaccio, baby squid, chorizo, and feta, and Duck liver rolled in hazelnut, pomegranate, and lentils. Both were exquisite, particularly the duck liver dish, which was bursting with complex earthy and fruity flavours: creative alchemy at its best. The crunchy hazelnuts and bittersweet pomegranate seeds worked perfectly with the soft, rich liver.
Gone are the days of amuse-bouche, it seems. The wonderful Lyndsay House (sadly no more) used to offer them in abundance, but Corrigan clearly feels there's no room or need for them here. I think he's right.
Our mains were as impressive as the starters. Satisfyingly generous servings of rabbit and suckling pig (Rabbit cutlet, dandelion, carrots and bacon, and Suckling pig ballotine with rib covered in crackling, apple purée, creamed potatoes, and leeks.). The pork was memorably soft and tender, the baby leeks lifting the dish to summery heights before the warm black pudding and potato brought it back down to earth. Balanced and refined in both taste and presentation. A finely diced ratatouille (lapse of concentration from the waiter here, who called it 'risotto'), and salad of watercress and bitter leaves were delicious, and far-from-perfunctory side dishes. (One tiny, tiny thing: someone wasn't paying attention on the pass - both our dishes had a little piece of silver foil on them.)
I do wonder how we had room for dessert, but here we go...
Rhubarb soufflé: a seasonal special. Light and fluffy as it should be, with warm vanilla cream carefully poured into the centre by our lovely waiter.
Chocolate and Hazelnut: an assortment of achingly sweet delights - coffee ice cream, hazelnut mousse, brandy snap filled with a light cream foam, and a rich hazelnut and chocolate genoise-style cake. The kitchen sweetly drew a chocolate drizzle birthday message around the plate, and gave me a copy of the menu signed by the man himself. The menu suggested a lightly sparkling Italian red, Brachetto, as an accompaniment - suitably celebratory, and delicious.
Being greedy sods, we didn't stop there. We headed to the bar to have a digestif of whisky and Armagnac, where I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Corrigan. Thanks, J, for calling me 'his stalker'... fortunately, he was unperturbed. We enthused briefly about Bentley's and Lyndsay House, and he was an utter charmer.
With starters ranging from £7-32, and mains from £22-68, Corrigan's doesn't offer cheap thrills (our dinner-for-two bill was over £150). This is a special place, for a special occasion. Corrigan is most certainly at the top of his game: every food lover should make this their mecca.