A Hegel-reading Irishman schooled in the Netherlands is the proud proprietor of the Decanter/Laurent-Perrier Restaurant of the Year 2009.
Richard Corrigan, owner of Corrigan’s Mayfair, grew up in ‘cash-poor, food-rich’ County Meath in Eastern Ireland, ‘shooting pheasants and rabbits in their fields, poaching salmon from the river,’ as Brian St Pierre writes in the latest issue of Decanter magazine.
‘We weren’t educated about food but we knew a hell of a lot,’ Corrigan told Decanter, describing how ‘immigrants and bright Lefty drop-outs from Dublin’ beat a path to western Ireland in search of the quiet life, and discovered food.
‘A lot of them were women, inspired by [legendary restaurateur] Myrtle Allen at Ballymaloe, who set the pace.’
Corrigan (pictured) went to the Netherlands to ‘get a foot in Europe’ when he was 17, an experience he found ‘liberating’.
‘The first thing I got was a library card. Most cooks read cookbooks, but I was reading Hegel, recommended by a Lefty friend.’
His stint in the Lowlands also gave him a lifelong respect for the northern races.
‘To this day I have a lot of Dutch and Scandinavians working for me. They have the work ethic. Get things done.’
After four years, the ‘big, brash lad with a talent for cooking’ came to London, working at Bentley’s fish restaurant, with Stephen Bull, at Mulligans, and then opened his own place, Lindsay House in Soho.
St Pierre pays tribute to Corrigan’s Mayfair, which he opened at the end of 2008, praising the wine list in particular.
‘He’s always had good, solid wine lists, but his latest – nearly 300 bins – is superior.’
The list is very strong on organic and biodynamic wines. ‘All our butter is handmade, organic. So is the flour. We buy directly as often as possible – abouit 80% from the farm or the boat. So why the hell talk about purity when you’re letting the side down when it comes to wine?’
Read the full interview in the February issue of Decanter magazine, out now
Corrigan’s Mayfair, 28 Upper Grosvenor St, London W1K 7EH. www.corrigansmayfair.com
Kensington Wine Rooms, 127 Kensington Church Street, London W8 7LP. www.greatwinesbytheglass.com
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Written by Adam Lechmere