28 Upper Grosvenor Street
London W1K 7EH
Tel. 020 7499 9943
Food type: British
Food rating: 5/10
Nearest tube: Marble Arch
Website: Corrigan’s Mayfair
When Richard Corrigan opened his eponymous restaurant, Corrigan’s, in Park Lane last year he really meant business. Around the same time, he announced that he would be shutting down his iconic one starred restaurant, Lindsay House when its lease was up at the end of May this year. Giving up a star? There were many problems that he faced while running the iconic eatery which he had held a star for 10 consecutive years – a small kitchen, an ageing building, numerous break-ins and staff being attacked. All these were good enough reasons for Corrigan to transport his restaurant (and his team) to the site where the 3-starred Chez Nico at Ninety once stood.
With his new venture in Mayfair, Corrigan wants to do away with what he terms ‘hoitiness’ which is part and parcel of dining around this area. As such, you will not find any amuse bouches, pre-desserts, tasting menus or wild ridiculous foams on the menu. Chef Corrigan certainly means it when he says he wants to go back to basics with a key focus on simplicity, seasonality and above all, flavour. In short – do as little as possible with high quality ingredients. In keeping with all this, the environment too is casual. You can go in dressed in rags (or at least jeans) have a quick main course and be out in a jiffy without any fuss whatsoever.
Dublin-born Richard Corrigan has been a key figure and leader in British cooking in London since 1994. Born and raised on a farm in County Meath, Dublin, Corrigan was brought up to love food. I suppose growing up in a large family with six siblings and no electricity for a good part of nine years meant that hunting, fishing, cooking and of course eating formed a major highlight of his childhood. This his reflected in the food he serves up which is based on the lovely game and fresh fish he had been brought up with. At the age of 14, Corrigan began his training at Kirwin hotel before moving to Holland after three years. His arrival in London, in 1984 saw him working at Le Meridien Hotel under Michel Lorrain before moving on to Bentley’s in the early 90’s. Corrigan would subsequently go on to acquire Bentley’s in 2005 and revive the flagging reputation of this historic institution. He moved on to Stephen Bull’s Fulham Road restaurant as head chef and gained his first Michelin star in 1994.
His collaboration with Searcy’s in 1996 as a food consultant was a stepping stone for his joint venture with Richard Goodhew in the acquisition of a certain Georgian townhouse in Soho. That townhouse was Lindsay House, and although undervalued, Corrigan could only stump up half the asking price. With the financial backing of Searcy’s, Corrigan would go on to open the brand new Lindsay House in 1997 and win its solitary Michelin star in 1999 which it managed to hold on to until its closure. Since then, Corrigan has gone from strength to strength including of course, winning the honour of cooking for the Queen’s 80th birthday in season 1 of the Great British Menu.
Corrigan’s, the restaurant, comfortably seats 75 covers including two private dining rooms, one of which is the chef’s table. The interior is inspired by a hunting lodge, with oak floors, interiors of antlers, table lamps covered in feathers (at least ours was) and olive green chairs representing wild grass. A few paintings which adorn the walls are from Mr. Corrigan’s private collection.
The menu is presented on a large piece of cardboard and divided into starters, fish, meat and desserts. Prices are quite reasonable for this part of London – Starters £7 to £32 (mostly £10), Mains £18 to £34 (mainly £25) and Desserts £6 to £12 (mainly £7.50). In addition, side dishes are available at £4.20 although most dishes come well garnished. The midweek lunch menu is priced at £27 for 3 courses inclusive of a 250 ml Carafe of wine. Please note that this is one of the few restaurants to include the archaic and very annoying cover charge.
Cheese Sable, Panko and Green Olive Beignet
A bowl of nibbles were brought to us as we sat down and enjoyed the mandatory glass of Guinness. First were little discs of Montgomery cheddar sables – the crumbly biscuits were buttery, salty, tangy with just a hint of nuttiness from the cheese. A second nibble, piping hot green olive beignets stuffed with a surprise filling of near molten feta, rolled in crispy panko (Japanese bread crumbs) were delightful. The juicy olive provided contrast to the sharpness of the feta although a warning about the runny feta would have been much appreciated. (5/10)
Irish Soda Bread, White Roll
Bread is made fresh on the premises and brought to the table in a simple metal bowl along with golden-yellow, unsalted Irish butter. Soda bread is one of Corrigan’s specialities, and he draws inspiration from the same bread his mom would make for him as a kid. No surprises here as it was dense, sweet, rich and very more-ish so much so we had to requests for seconds. (6/10) White roll was fine if uninspiring. (4/10)
Colchester Natives no.2
Given that Corrigan owns Bentley’s, I would assume that oysters here would be well sourced, and it was. Only the basic Colchester natives No.2 were available compared to a wider selection at Bentley’s although as a rule of thumb these oysters are really tasty despite being what I consider a ‘beginner’s’ oyster.
Octopus Carpaccio, Baby Squid, Chorizo & Feta
A classic at Lindsay House, octopus carpaccio with grilled baby squid topped with a bit of chorizo, feta cheese and bitter greens promised much but was rather let down by the octopus itself which were rather chewy. This was all the more surprising because the griddled baby squid were timed to absolute perfection and probably the softest, most tender specimens I have tasted in London. If there was an element that this dish could do without, it was most certainly the feta which I felt overpowered the delightful taste of the octopus, squid and to some extent the chorizo itself. (4/10)
Pea & Mint Risotto Cured Ham
Better was a pea and mint risotto served with some very tasty cured ham. The rice was cooked a tad softer than I would have liked them but I guess this is a reflection of how the British in general like their risotto. The in-season peas were bursting with flavour, with the mint component well judged. (5/10) As a side note, my theory on the texture of risotto was given a bit of backing as a table nearby sent their risotto back because the rice was ‘too hard’ for their liking. Being sat quite close the kitchen it was quite interesting listening to Mr. Corrigan’s reaction to the ‘hard’ risotto.
Braised Pigs Trotter, Creamed Potato
The great Marco Pierre White once said, “If I were to have one main course before I died tomorrow it would be pig’s trotter.” He was of course referring to Pierre Koffmann’s iteration of pig’s trotters. The version served here certainly pays homage to that classic which has seen a decline in popularity in recent times because of the general public’s preference for choice cuts of meat. If you have ever looked up the recipe for this dish you will know that a lot of work goes into it. The end result is a very rich, very hearty dish – a manly dish not for the faint of heart. Gelatinous pork, smooth yet dense chicken mouse were perfect foil for the sweetness of the shallots and smokiness of the bacon lardons. A clever addition of toasted bread crumbs gave some much needed texture. This was comfort food at its best. (6/10)
Large Plaice In Almond Crumbs, Clams & Mussels
Equally as good as plaice, roasted on the bone (actually the fish was left on the bone), crusted with almond accompanied by a delicious concoction of razor clams, mussels and samphire. The fish was timed perfectly, retaining all of its lovely juices, the toasty almond adding interesting nuttiness to the dish. (6/10)
Very full, we somehow managed to make it to desserts. Part of the reason was probably because of the very tempting rhubarb soufflé on the menu. This was generally well executed, served with custard, poured at table side into the soufflé, and an excellent ginger ice cream. I am not convinced with the addition of the custard as it made the pudding too wet for my liking. (4/10)
Elderflower & Summer Berry Jelly
I preferred the simple sounding, jelly of elderflower and summer berries which was refreshing and simply bursting with (fruity) flavours. The little terrine of wobbly jelly encasing sweet-sour summer fruits married well with creamy, soothing ice cream and a soup of summer fruits. The elderflower element, which is something I adore most about summer came through very well. (6/10)
Chocolate Truffle, Mango Jelly, Pistachio Macaroons, Elderflower Marshmallows, Lemon Tart
Petit fours were indeed generous and offered even without the consumption of tea/ coffee. Of these were a capable lemon tart and a very good mango jelly. (5/10)
Service was pleasant, unintrusive and relaxed. The casual environment also means that none of the dishes were formally introduced to us, at least in not any detail, although my server was more than happy to furnish me with more details when prompted.
As luck would have it, Richard Corrigan himself was in the kitchen that night and even popped out to say hi during a very busy dinner service. Much like his soda bread which we adored, the cooking here was about going back to basics and perfecting all the little things. After all, you can’t reinvent the wheel – it has already been invented. I love the big bold, in-your-face, flavours that where evident throughout this meal. There were no technical flaws with the cooking and if one or two dishes could be tweaked a tiny bit, I am pretty sure that this restaurant will go on to receive a star next year.