Richard Corrigan opened his eponymous Mayfair restaurant to great critical acclaim in November 2008. Operating on a far grander scale than either Bentley’s or (the now closed) Lindsay House, Corrigan’s Mayfair nevertheless aimed to emulate the gutsy, rustic cooking that brought its Michelin starred chef-patron such great praise. Since then, his celebrity chef appearances have increased considerably, with his latest venture being the weekday Chef School on Channel 4. Given this busy schedule, the question arises as to whether his restaurants have suffered as a result. Fine-dining-guide is happy to report that this is not the case.
Housed in the site once occupied by Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane, the eclectic décor and relaxed feel of Corrigan’s Mayfiar are far removed from those of its classical French predecessor. The long oaked floored room designed by Martin Brudnitzke evokes the rural pursuits of hunting shooting and fishing: witness, for instance, the frieze carving of game animals and birds, antlers decorating the walls, table lamps with goose feather shades, and canvasses of the Irish countryside. Sadly, the dimly lit, low ceilinged room fails to show these to their best effect. Indeed, the bell shaped ceiling lamps linked by dainty chains give an oddly gas-light glow to the lighting. By way of contrast, the frosted glass tiled walls between the deep set sash windows, are a more successful feature of the room.
Well spaced square tables line each wall, with larger round tables occupying the centre aisle. Seating for 70 covers is comfortable, with blue leather chairs and soft banquettes. Private dining for 30 can be enjoyed in the glamourous Lindsay Room, whilst smaller groups of foodies can book the Chef’s Table or Kitchen Library (directly opposite the passe) which seats 12 and 6 respectively.
The food emerging from the kitchen epitomises the nature of Richard Corrigan himself: big, hearty, generous and honest. The emphasis is on cooking to produce clear bold flavours, executed with precision and devoid of extraneous elements on the plate. This is not the place for the cheffy artistry of smears, dots, quenelles or stacks: the focus is uncompromisingly on the main ingredient. Corrigan has never been a slave to fashion, which is why he was a pioneer of sustainability, organic produce and nose-to-tail eating well before others jumped on the bandwagon.
Chef Director Chris McGowan’s impressive CV includes experience in the kitchens of Bruno Loubet, Garry Rhodes and Pierre Koffman before becoming Head Chef at Lindsay House, a position he held for six years. The transition to Corrigan’s Mayfair has been seamless, more impressively so given the increased size of the operation. The ambitious seasonally changing menu of traditional and modern British dishes offers an embarrassment of choice. There are 4 oyster and 11 other starters; 7 fish dishes; 9 meat (with game and offal well represented); and 6 desserts and cheese.
Fine-dining-guide visited on a Monday evening in February, when a pleasant buzz of contented diners was clearly evident.
The selection of freshly home-made breads immediately made a good impression, the soda bread in particular being exemplary in texture and taste.
Parmesan coated mini doughnuts served as a very agreeable amuse-bouche
A starter of lobster ravioli was well executed, the thin, soft pasta being topped with half a roasted lobster tail in its shell. The crustacean was accurately timed, being moist, tender and well flavoured – no cotton wool here! Buttered leeks added texture and an attractive garnish, whilst an intense Americane sauce of reduced lobster stock and crème fraiche brought the elements together well.
Pan roasting did full justice to a trio of Cornish scallops, emphasizing their inherent succulence. The accompanying laska sauce with its lemon grass, chilli, galangal and coconut was sufficiently mild not to overwhelm the delicate shellfish, and the rice garnish provided textural contrast and substance. However, the mustard fruit ravioli, one perched on each of the scallops, proved too sweet and rich for the other ingredients; this was the only blemish in an otherwise excellent meal. (Wine: 2008 Riesling “ Le Kotable” Domaine Josmeyer – Alsace)
The precise timing of a fillet of haddock produced pure white flakes of absolutely fresh fish. A toasted coconut crust contrasted with the gently sweet parsnip puree and coco beans garnishes. This brilliant combination did not need – but did not suffer from – the luxurious addition of chunks of lobster. (Wine: Lugana,Ca’Dei Frati – Veneto)
A veal sweetbread dish was a highly innovative tour de force. The calf’s pancreas had been tea smoked and then breaded before being roasted to produce a crust to replicate a pan seared version. Skillfully prepared, this decadent piece of offal had a crisp exterior encasing a creamy soft centre. Orange in the saucing provided a balancing sweet, citric note. (Wine: 2007 Saint-Aubin, Domaine Girardin – Cote de Beaune)
A wild duck main course was a master class in game cookery. The thick breast of the mallard has been slow roasted pink to retain its essential juiciness and gamey flavour. The leg was cooked as a confit, whilst a slice of “pie” contained an intense farce made with its offal. The richness of the meat with its intensely reduced sauce and the celeriac puree garnish was cut by tea soaked prunes, a vital element in the dish’s success. (Wine: 2009 Cotes du Rhone Pourpre, Maxime Francois Lauren – Rhone.)
Vegetables are not secondary, as shown by excellent side dishes, such as potato and celeriac gratin and honey and black pepper parsnips.
Given the large portions of the starters and main courses, diners would be hard pushed to opt for the excellent all British cheese board before dessert.
Rhubarb and ginger, a classic flavour combination, was given full rein in a soufflé and ice cream dessert, the final highlight in a meal full of stellar moments. The rhubarb soufflé was well risen with a crumble topping, juicy pieces of not too sharp fruit, and vanilla crème Anglaise, poured through the top. Perfectly smooth ginger ice cream completed this first class dessert.
Sorbets too, were intensely flavoured and velvety textured. (Wine: Jurancon, Supreme de Thon, Clos de Thon, Pyrennes)
Good coffee and petit fours completed a memorable meal.
Other important elements include the impressive 280-bin wine list covering New and Old Worlds, from which the sommelier carefully chose matching wines for our dishes. The list, which highlights organic and bio-dynamic producers – another aspect of Richard Corrigan’s pioneering qualities – also contains very useful notes on food and wine pairing.
The General Manager is Frederic- Claude, whose experience as Head Sommelier at the Waterside Inn and manager of the brilliant if short-lived Ambassade de L’Ile has equipped him well to oversee the front of house. His top end professionalism combined with genuine passion and warmth, help to ensure his staff members are equally knowledgeable, efficient and solicitous.
Dining at Corrigan’s Mayfair is a highly pleasurable experience. The prices are realistic, given the location, the quality of the ingredients, the generous portions, the skills of the brigade of chefs and the impeccable service. The weekday set lunch menu (including a 250 ml carafe of wine) and the Sunday set lunch menu offer excellent value for money alternatives to choosing from the carte. Nevertheless, the glories of the full menu must be sampled to appreciate the extensive creativity of the cooking. This also makes Corrigan’s a special occasion, destination restaurant, already well received by the critics and
public alike. It is only a matter of time before it achieves greater recognition.