An evening stroll through Mayfair (with supercars lurking menacingly behind plate glass and surgically improved heiresses tottering from the Dorchester) can give the impression that there's little connection to the natural world in this part of London. Walk into Corrigan's however and the proof that provenance matters has never tasted better.
Occupying the street level of one of Mayfair's unmistakable 18th century mansion blocks, Corrigan's sets out its stall on entry. From the perfectly furnished anteroom the eye is quickly and effectively drawn down the rich mahogany bar that sweeps toward the restaurant. Rich leather and dark wood combine throughout to provide reassurance to those familiar with the interior of Mayfair's gentlemen's clubs but careful detail, reflective wall covering and peacock feather lampshades give the impression that this is not an establishment prepared to rest on its laurels, even on décor. The restaurant uses silver service trolleys, white linen and unfussy table settings as visual cues to remind those entering that this is a dining room rightfully happy to mix it with the big boys.
Given the gravitas afforded both to chefs as lauded as Richard Corrigan and the W1 postcode, it might have been easy for an air of affluent reverence to have permeated Corrigan's. The sheer joy of the menu and wine list shatter any leanings towards such a stuffy environment and the long bar injects just enough informality to encourage diners to relax and lift their voices above respectful whispers. As a result peels of laughter mix with tales of deals done to give the restaurant a vibrancy which is enhanced by the well rehearsed choreography of charming, informed and helpful staff. Tables are afforded ample room to ensure privacy is maintained and the heady mix of fine wine and even finer food further stoke the conviviality that dominates the atmosphere.
At Corrigan's the commitment to sustainability, fairness, seasonality and environment leap off every line of the menu, and without a hint of the smug preaching that undermines imitators attempting to cash in on the movements this chef helped pioneer. Corrigan's conviction is so persuasive and the food so good that not many leave this restaurant without becoming a convert.
Starters range from ten to twenty-five pounds and nod to the widest range of influences on the food menu. The poached rock oysters, salsify and suckling pig sausage is as wonderful as it sounds. Accurately poaching these notoriously tricky bivalves is no mean feat in itself but to find a sausage that doesn't overwhelm them is a masterstroke. The pickled salsify provides a balance to the gentle richness of the sausage and the combined effect of the unlikely triumvirate is astonishing. Foie gras parfait from the night's specials (ten strong and recalled without a glitch by a waiter) is a more traditional offering but no less brilliantly delivered.
Main courses have a more traditional structure but still show the invention that has earned Corrigan accolades throughout his career. The confit and roast partridge, pumpkin ravioli and wet walnuts is a masterclass in technique. The game is cooked to perfection (both ways), the pasta light and the pumpkin and walnuts a perfect match for the roast and confit respectively. The roast loin of hare epitomises the kitchen's respect for its livestock and is a game lover's heaven. The hare is served not only in its perfectly roasted form but in a coarse terrine and an elegantly fine parfait. The bacon, button onions and red cabbage are again ideal bedfellows for each different element of the meat and the whole is greater even than the sum of its parts.
The festival of the senses continues into the dessert menu with valhrona, tonka bean and peanuts providing a beautifully constructed, satisfying selection of tastes, smells and textures. Special plaudits must be paid to the apple crumble soufflé with toffee and vanilla which through some artful ceremony manages to combine the delicious sophistication of a soufflé with the nostalgic memories of bonfire night toffee apples.
Corrigan's commitment to what goes on the plate is matched by their care for what goes in your glass. The wine list reads as a treatise to the grape and is constructed around taste, emotion and sensation rather than region. It is a reminder that a Sommelier is one of life's true passion followers with emphasis on organic and biodynamic wines from small vineyards. It's also a very accessible list with a range of prices to be expected from a restaurant of this stature. All selected by the waiter to match the food, an excellent Barco Reale Di Carmignano from the Sommelier's seasonal choice is very reasonable at £25, and some perfectly pitched dessert wines gave a tantalising taste of a list that is a work of art in itself.
The Last Word
Corrigan's is a restaurant at the top of its game. The food, wine and service are beyond reproach but it is the passion and philosophy that set it apart from its peers and into a class of its own.