Lindsay House was Richard Corrigan’s flagship venue, a creaking, charming Soho townhouse that retained its Michelin star for eleven successful years. His new haunt in Mayfair couldn’t be more different; it’s still charming but in a glamorous bon-viveur-Art-Deco way. Sited in the rear of Grosvenor House on Upper Grosvenor Street, the long bar and the sophisticated dining room feels opulent yet discreet. It’s reminiscent of the sumptuous and dazzling Criterion combined with the clubby comfort of Le Gavroche. There is something old school about it without the associated stuffiness. Indeed, the lunchtime crowd was a mixture of Mayfair suits, glamorous ladies-who-lunch and the odd cretin wearing jeans.
Stirling was unable to attend this luncheon due to having succumbed to a tropical disease during a triathlon in Burma that turned out to be a counter-insurgency operation with his former chums from Her Majesty’s beige berets, but Lawrence was there and Senter Esq. joined us too, injecting some much needed intellect into the lunching dialogue.
Proceedings kicked off with some shared amuse bouche in the form of a bread-crumbed olive stuffed with goat’s cheese. I have to say these were quite addictive and utterly delicious, the sort of party nibble that everyone fights over in the politest possible way. Sadly though, being courteous as we all are, there was one olive left in the bowl and nobody would be so brash as to seize the last morsel. So the waiter walked off with it instead. That unleashed the caveman in me and I shouted after him, “I’ll have that!”, but he didn’t hear me – or chose to ignore me – so I flumped into my chair, sullen, flushed and slightly embarrassed by my rapacious outburst, the ladies-who-lunch at a neighbouring table staring at me incredulously (Cecilia, in hushed tones: “I can’t believe the sort of people they allow into restaurants like this nowadays.” Verity: “It’s disgusting. He’s even wearing jeans. Must be new money. There’s no accounting for class”).
The set lunch menu is magnificent value at £27 for three courses including a 250ml carafe of wine – which, funnily enough – was a white from the Languedoc. Astute readers will know that we Arbuteers don’t often drink white wine, unless dining with royalty, or Girl Thursday (same thing). But since this was a Languedoc and priced very well too, we decided to throw caution to the wind and I have to say it was a great plonk. For a white.
Conversation quickly turned to Senter’s forthcoming trip to the Edinburgh Literary Festival where he is judge, jury and resident interviewer, holding audiences with the likes of Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin, among others. Expect some fabulous coverage of the festival in The Arbuturian come August.
Now I must admit that I wasn’t taking notes and I have since forgotten the details of what, exactly, I ate. It’s been one of those weeks. Very unprofessional of me, I know. But there you go. So bear with me: for starters, I had some sort of pea and ham mousse with laver bread. I think it was laver bread. But don’t quote me on that. Anyway, it was all delicious and that’s all you need to know. If you want to read about the finer details of how the peas were individually shelled and blitzed and combined with a dash of seasoning before being poured into a cappuccino machine and turned into froth, then clearly you are reading the wrong publication and I am very sorry about that but such is life.
Similarly, the main course was fabulous. A cacophony of lamb – loin, confit shoulder and something that tasted like offal but I forget what it was – all superb and a delight to the senses. The smear of pesto was especially memorable; like the pea mousse, it was so uplifting that it actually tasted fresher than is possible within the confines of nature.
Senter commented on the hierarchy of the waiting staff who were dressed in a variety of uniforms from business suit for the maitre d’ to an all-in-black number for the next level down (maitre c’?) to the waiters in white suits to the skivvies wearing aprons, who appeared to be at the bottom of the rung and weren’t allowed to speak to guests, let alone make eye contact (Maitre d’: “Be especially careful of the table over there. They are journalists and infamous for their lofty behaviour and unreasonably high expectations”). Service was very polished and the front-of-house were extremely attentive, if anything a bit too attentive. But I can hardly fault them for that.
Corrigan was in the restaurant too, pottering about and ensuring that everything was shipshape, which is nice to see. The atmosphere was sophisticated but animated, and I came to the conclusion that it was the sort of restaurant I could comfortably while away the hours in. And so we did; conversation then turned to Sophie Dahl and how we all think she’s fabulous. I admitted that I went to school with her, though to be fair I have no distinguishing memories of her as I believe she’s a tad younger than me, but I have made a note to add her to our interview roster as she’ll make an entertaining and very Arbuturian subject.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the dessert. It was a lemon custard tart and it was heavenly. Coffee was good too, as were the petit fours. So as you can tell, I was quite pleased with the whole experience. One thing I did notice is that Richard’s very Irish influenced style of cooking seems to have diversified of late – there was a Thai curry on the lunch menu, if you can believe it – and this isn’t a bad thing, just an interesting observation.
As we departed I glanced over at Cecilia and Verity who were still shooting me icy looks. But the expression on Cecilia’s face changed as something occurred to her and she whispered to Verity, cleared her throat, and then asked while smiling and batting her eyelids, “Aren’t you the editor of The Arbuturian? I think we met at Annabel’s a few months ago?” Somewhat taken aback, I paused, considered my options, reviewed my behaviour during the meal and the scandalous things they may have overheard me talking about, and then replied, “No, afraid not, you must be mistaken. I don’t think Jonesy wears jeans.”
Summary: a brilliant restaurant in a wonderful building, a fantastic value set lunch and food to kill for. What more could you want?
Corrigan’s Mayfair, 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London W1K 7EH. Tel. 020 7499 9943. Website: www.corrigansmayfair.com