For a chef who left school at the tender age of fifteen, Richard Corrigan has managed to work his way up to owning three top London restaurants with a turnover in excess of ten million pounds a year. We went along to his flagship restaurant, Corrigan's Mayfair to discover the secrets of his enduring popularity.
With a smartly dressed doorman welcoming you, you might expect old-fashioned charms aplenty at this restaurant. The room is discreetly elegant with a gleaming, tirelessly polished oak floor, well-cushioned royal blue seats and fine napery in abundance. Richard Corrigan's much treasured private art collection adorns the walls.
The menu is very far from old-fashioned; in fact it's up there with the trendiest of London restaurants at the moment. You have sections like Coastal & Wild and Grass Fed, Furred and Feathered. The selling point here is about the quality and sustainability of the produce. Richard bought the one hundred-acre private estate, the Virginia Park Lodge in Ireland in 2013 and some of the produce at the restaurant comes directly from the estate.
The exciting food offerings begin even before you've ordered any food: the bread baked in-house in clay pots is one of the spongiest tasting versions you will have in London. It takes a person of iron-will to avoid finishing the whole pot of bread before your starters arrive.
For starters, I tried a smoked eel dish with black pudding hash and apple. It was a firm fish that didn't require flavouring as it had a gentle hint of smokiness along with the saltiness that are common with eel and it did come with some strong black pudding.
Other highlights from the starters include a Cornish crab salad, which uses both white and brown crab meat and a chicken congee dish, which alludes to the oriental touches on Corrigan's menu.
There is a fine selection of game dishes in the main course section. I tried a moist, tender and rich-tasting squab pigeon, which was flavoured with soy and chilli. The Asian flavours made the dish even more appetising although the bony nature of the dish made it operationally tricky to consume, hence it came with a finger bowl.
The other signature dishes include well-sourced lamb from Elwy Valley. It is from a small family run farm in Denbighshire in Wales and the meat is much in-demand amongst the elite of London restaurants.
The staff are tremendously welcoming and put diners at ease with their recommendations. The sommelier recommended Loimer 2015 Lois Grüner Veltliner and helpfully explained because of the deeper roots for these grapes grown on a steep slope, the wine has a much cleaner, crisp taste compared to conventional white wines.
Sticky toffee pudding with golden raisins might be one of the most common desserts you will come across from pubs to fine dining establishments. The version here is one of the best you will find in London with a crusty, chewy outer coating covering a pillowy, moist interior.
Richard Corrigan has been at the top of his game for well over two decades since he earned his first Michelin star in 1994 and based on our visit, you can see his empire growing from strength to strength.
Words by Baldwin Ho