Richard Corrigan: ‘St Patrick’s is a get together day for humanity. We Irish know how to celebrate’ | Richard Corrigan


You must – must! – stay inquisitive. It is probably the most important thing: stay inquisitive, like people, and keep knowledge flowing through your ears and your eyes. Listen, read and taste. Keep all that going and And don’t become old, fight ageing.

I was brought up in a farmhouse in the Irish countryside where there were rabbits, pheasants, butter-making, it was all going on. There was always a wild salmon coming and going into our house. But nobody intellectualised food: it was just food for the table. The smell of bread is the overriding memory: that’s why we make bread for all our restaurants. There’s something about the smell of freshly baked bread in a kitchen: it’s magic.

I had a minimum amount of education, which is true for a lot of people in hospitality. Now, when people say: “I left doing a master’s in law and I became a chef,” I’m like: “Jesus Christ! Will someone show them the way back to the master’s in law?!”

When we opened at the National Portrait Gallery last year, I worked there for four and a half months, every bloody day. The director said it was a bit like Hotel California: “Corrigan, you’re in, you’re never leaving!” But I didn’t want to be another name, turn up once a week and just walk away. No, I wanted to feel that there was real effort put into it. And real Real effort deserves man hours on the floor, on site. End of story. You can’t do it on the phone, you’re not going to do it on a video call, you’re not going to do it from your bedroom.

No place in London sells as many oysters as Bentley’s. And for good reason. We look after our oysters with religious zeal. Because oysters can cause a lot of problems: there should be a warning sign at certain times of the year, especially when a lot of people won’t keep them in the filtration baths for around 36 hours. And our oysters come straight to us from the coast. We don’t deal with a middleman, so we know where things come from.

I am not afraid to put offal on a menu, because if you are going to eat a chop, you must eat the offal. You must eat the tongues, the hearts, the livers, the trotters … eat the whole bloody animal. If not, be vegetarian.

To me, St Patrick’s Day is a get together day for humanity. Let’s be clear: the Irish know how to celebrate. We spend it like sailors on leave, the English hoard it like misers. You know that and I know that: we don’t want to insult each other. But I don’t like it to be just this beer-swilling alcohol day. You’re not going to see me wrapped in your shamrock and greens and singing fucking Molly Malone, that’s not really me.

I try to stay away from ultra fine dining restaurants. I like going to Paris, but when you get the bill, you want to cry. I took my chefs to L’Ambroisie, a three-star place, a few years ago and honestly I think I shed a tear. My card refused to go through! You just think: “How is this possible?”

I really love what I do – and that’s unusual at 60. I’ve met lots of people in the City of London and all different types and they all hate what they do. They’re burned out, they’re all stressed. But I fell into hospitality and the love affair over all these years has never dwindled. If anything, I’m even more mad passionate. OFM

My favourite things

Food
Bentley’s soda bread with Lincolnshire poacher butter. When you understand what great butter is and what great bread is, that starts your journey in the kitchen.

Drink
I love the flavour of fortified wine at the moment: sherries and ports and madeiras are on another bloody level. Sherry may be the most underrated drink in the world.

Place to eat
Phil Howard’s Elystan Street is the place I’ve been more often than anywhere else. I like Phil, I like the way he cooks. And Nieves Barragán Mohacho at Sabor: she’s a powerhouse of individuality. You have a bit of suckling pig at Sabor: heaven!

Dish to make
Lamb’s liver is just one of the great things to eat. And you don’t need to be a chef. You just need great balsamic, great sea salt and a lovely bit of fresh lamb’s liver and some bitter leaves, and you have the most delicious lunch.

Corrigan’s Mayfair, 28 Upper Grosvenor St, London W1, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year



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