The welcoming flagship restaurant of the eponymous Irish chef, offering an unflashy but very comfortable Mayfair experience; on our early-days visit, the menu, specialising in game and seafood, was often realised to a high level, but standards were not entirely consistent.
Sometimes, you read reviews so good you just have to drop everything and go and visit a new restaurant without delay. So it was when first appraisals appeared of the new venture, just off Park Lane, from genial Irishman Richard Corrigan. If the long-awaited spot was to be the restaurant of the season, there was clearly no time to waste!
First impression: great welcome. Those Irish eyes – no, we’re not talking about Corrigan – really do smile very nicely.
Second impression: no people. (Poetic licence, of course: there were a handful of people. Even rave reviews can take a while to fill a place up.)
Third impression: this is a comfortable and stylishly under-lit venue, well designed as a comfortable retreat from the world. (Let’s all hope that bright lighting does indeed turn out to be one of the first victims of the recession.) Overall, the early reviewers seem to have found something rather rustic about the styling: perhaps we missed the relevant flourishes, or maybe the reviewers just don’t get out of Mayfair often enough.
We started off at the bar. Though half of it is set up to accommodate single diners, the overall impression was rather like a cocktail bar, so we ordered a Manhattan. It came, unbidden, ‘on the rocks’, with some good, if not ambitious, warm nibbles.
We perused the menu, which has been compared elsewhere to that at Scott’s – a good way of evoking it, with the qualification that the version here is meatier and gamier.
Our guest had an exceptional meal, and professed almost total satisfaction with his fried oyster and chorizo starter, and a main course of lamb kebab ‘Ã la grecque’, (which turned out to be two almost excessively generous chops on a stick). A warm carrot cake with pickled walnuts and clementines was proclaimed a lifetime best.
Our own experience was a little more varied. We weren’t that impressed by the bread basket, and the ‘Cornish crab jelly’ turned out not to be ‘en gelée’, as we’d imagined, but on jelly, which is something altogether different, and not as nice. It perhaps didn’t help that the accompanying Melba toast somewhat lacked the essential crispness.
Game being a big deal here, we thought we’d try the game suet pudding. Especially in comparison to a similar item recently much enjoyed at Just St James’s SW1, it was dull.
At pudding (in the dessert sense), though, we finally began to share our guest’s excitement: a lime and cheese soufflé truly was exceptional. But then coffee was not.
Wine came in copious variety, listed, in a rather breezy way, by style, with a good number of options available by the 250ml or 500ml carafe.
Can we, overall, understand the rapture of the first-wave reviewers? Yes, but only with some reservations. And it is, of course, early days. But that’s always going to be the big problem with being first – OK, second – with the news.