This article was also published in the Financial Times.
If Richard Corrigan (pictured here when his base was The Lindsay House in Soho) could cook as well as he can talk then he would unquestionably be the best chef in the world.
Having said that, I do not believe that anyone who visits the plush Corrigan's of Mayfair which he has just opened round the corner from the Grosvenor House Hotel off Park Lane will leave unimpressed.
In an extremely elegant setting Corrigan has devised an extensive menu that concentrates on the wild ingredients that have always been the trademark of this Irish chef but here seem to have been honed to distinctive and understated simplicity.
To all of this Corrigan brings unabated enthusiasm and non-stop chat. I first caught sight of him slipping into a clean chef's jacket having just arrived from Bentley's, his other restaurant. He lost no time in putting his finger on quite how exhausting opening a restaurant can be, "At this stage, what with waiting for the builders to leave and the first customers to arrive, every hour feels like a day," he sighed.
The range his voice is currently put to was obvious from two overheard encounters. The first, and much the more unforgettable, was the haranguing he was giving his kitchen brigade at the end of a lunch session warning them that they had to be much better prepared for the start of every service in the future. The second was when from behind the bar he recognised an elderly couple as they were being escorted to their table, helped them to sit comfortably, smiled and said "Welcome to my restaurant" with obvious pride and pleasure.
The reason that he can now do all this so easily is connected in part to why the food here is even better than at The Lindsay House (which will close next May); Bentley's or any of Corrigan's previous restaurants: at the new restaurant the kitchens are on the same floor and only a few yards from the restaurant or the two private dining rooms. There is nothing to diminish the dishes' strong, intrinsic flavours.
Among the impressive starters are an oxtail consommé with oxtail ravioli; an unusual salad of beetroot, Medjool dates and wild watercress; and octopus carpaccio with clementines and almonds.Two fish courses, steamed sole fillets with ceps and John Dory with langoustine sauce, were exemplary while a grouse pie packed lots of flavour even if should perhaps more accurately be described as grouse en croute. All these intriguing dishes, plus a lime and cheese soufflé and quince tart with Sauternes ice cream, are matched by an unusual and versatile wine list.
Corrigan's Mayfair, www.corrigansmayfair.com
From Corrigan's recently published book A Clatter of Forks and Spoons (£25 Fourth Estate) comes this Christmas recipe based on the old idea of port and Stilton.
Crozier Blue Cheese Soaked in Banyuls
1 whole Crozier Blue cheese
350 ml Banyuls
Pierce the cheese several times with a skewer. Put it into a container that allows a space of about 1.5cm around the edge of the cheese and pour the Banyuls over the top. The space should be big enough to allow you to get your fingers in and lift out the cheese, but narrow enough to concentrate the wine around the cheese. Leave to soak for 3-4 days, turning the cheese after 2 days. Eat with oat biscuits.