It has become something of a tradition for Jude and I to have an end of term treat. The end of term has sort of snuck up on me this year, so we realised it would have to be a Monday lunch. We were going to go back to 32 Great Queen St, until we discovered that they aren't open for lunch on a Monday.
There was nothing for it. We had to try something new. And the new kid on the block at the moment is Corrigan's Mayfair.
Richard Corrigan has been busily churning out amazing food at Lindsay House, while some of his peers have been churning out ghost-written cookbooks and teflon-coated frying pans. One of my foodyest friends has eaten several times and Lindsay House and has commented that, as well as the food being wonderful, you more often than not see Corrigan in the restaurant. So my expectations were pretty high.
Jude had already been there for a while by the time I arrived, and apparently she'd been served with a little nibble of olives stuffed with goat's cheese while she sat at the bar. She said it was delicious, and given that she is one of those non-goat's cheese eaters I would have liked to see that. I missed it and we were shown to the table.
The bread that arrived was delicious. Slices of a deeply malty soda bread, and warm white rolls, with a generous dish of lightly salted butter made me feel pretty comfortable that my expectations were going to be met.
I ordered a bottle of rioja - one that I have had before and liked - because I didn't want to get into conversation with the sommelier. That was a conversation that would probably have gone expensively for me.
The menu is pretty long and extremely tempting. I was already sold on the crubeens, because my Lindsay House-fan friend has raved, but if I hadn't been so determined it would have taken me ages just to choose the starter.
The crubeens weren't as scary as "crumbed pigs trotter" may lead you to believe. I think they had been slowly cooked, then boned, pressed into disc shapes, crumbed and fried so that the outside was crisp and the inside was meltingly porky. These discs were served on a bed of leaves with some proscuitto-ish ham, some cured beetroot and dabs of a delicious horseradish dressing.
Jude also went in a salady direction, with a warm salad of game birds with romesco sauce. I couldn't really spot the romesco in the taste I had, but the bits of bird were tender, juicy and delicious.
As a main course I was edging towards partridge with bread sauce, cabbage and bacon, but I decided that I was feeling far too lazy to deal with a bird on the bone. So I had the roe venison in pastry. 3 different cuts of venison were served: a perfectly rested fillet; a slowly cooked sticky bit and a broader fillet wrapped in duxelles and pastry. I think the duxelles that we use for our beef wellingtons actually has a better flavour because of the dried mushrooms we add but that is a very minor quibble! The pastry was thin and light and the red cabbage an excellent accompaniment. There was also the tiniest slick of creamy puree on the plate - it may have been celeriac or it may have been Jerusalem artichoke, my palate was too overwhelmed by flavours to tell.
Jude settled on the game suet pudding, which was exactly what it said - light, fluffy suet pastry encasing a rich game mixture with wonderfully savoury gravy. It came with a side dish of mashed carrot and swede, but the promise of goosefat chips was too good to resist, so we shared some of them as well.
As well as excellent food, there was some fascinating eavesdropping to be done. The table of well-upholstered clergymen behind us debated the ordination of women (too late to close that stable door in the Church of England, I would have said) and what music to have at the Christmas Mass. The gentleman who said they were having Schubert was informed that it was boudoir music. There was disappointment that in the selection of cognacs, armagnacs and digestifs there wasn't a poire eau de vie. I am never putting another penny in a collection plate.
Fortunately we were relieved of the pressure to have dessert by the sight of the petits fours being taken to other tables. So we ordered coffee. And were presented with an adorable little silver dish of treats. There were cubes of quince jelly - fresh, light and quivering, somehow golden yellow not cooked to the usual amber. Tiny slivers of brulee-topped lemon tart, in the most delicate pastry. Fairly dull but workmanlike dark chocolate truffles. Perfect coffee macaroons.
I would probably have had a glass of dessert wine (maybe even a mirabelle, since they didn't have poire eau de vie) but it wasn't offered. I suspect if the clergymen are your typical digestif drinkers then the sommelier wouldn't have thought two unchaperoned ladies would be likely to order them. Still - the offer would have been nice. However, for a restaurant that has only been open a month, they are kicking goals. I look forward to seeing what they can do when they really get their feet under the table!