Richard Corrigan Does Westfield
Chef Richard Corrigan helped launch Westfield Stratford City’s Food Truck Festival with a cooking demonstration followed by a three-course meal. Even though Corrigan hails from the world of fine dining, his spirit and presentation style made everyone feel at home. In fact, I’d say Richard embodies the spirit of what food trucks are all about: menu combinations that are simple but perfect, a casual atmosphere where being at ease is part of the experience, and the chance to get to know the chef that’s cooking your food.
Richard made a point that we should pay more attention to where our food comes from. To ensure we believed him, he fed us organic Scottish salmon, cured and smoked in the attic (at his restaurant Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill), on top of freshly baked wheat bread and a dollop of butter mixed with herbs and capers.
As we sunk our teeth into the sushi soft salmon, Richard began to sear the Roast Lamb Nicoise, which he accompanied with an anchovy and mint salsa verde. The meat was balanced with a lightly sautéed combination of vegetables that had all been sourced from his garden—that is, the peas kept their crunch, and freshened the palate before another bite of lamb. His salsa verde was a rather unique combination of condiments: capers, anchovies, parsley, chives and garlic which, added to the lamb, created a further layer of ‘green’ and ‘earthy’ linking the lamb perfectly to the salad that accompanied it.
Once the crowd from the demo departed, we sat down to a three course meal cooked by Corrigan himself, under a summery white pergola, with candles and waiting staff flurrying about.
We started with a soup of oyster, seaweed and chives inside a small teacup, topped with oyster toast, and paired with a glass of dry Manzanilla Papirusa sherry. The table fell silent as each guest experienced the buttery oyster concoction.
The miniature starter left us wanting more, and when the seared lamb nicoise arrived, we let our eyes feast first. The seared brown and pink meat, dotted with anchovy and mint salsa verde, plus the salad, came paired with a Crozes Hermitage 2015 Domaine des Entrefaux. The lamb was tender to the point where chewing was merely a way of ensuring that you could enjoy the meat a few seconds longer. We fought over second helpings.
Finishing the meal was a dessert made of gooseberry, sorrel and elderflower sorbet (again, produce from Richard’s garden) served with a glass of gris blanc rosé IGP Pays d’Oc wine. The gooseberries were warm and at their peak ripeness, sharply contrasted by the sweet and icy elderflower sorbet. A bit of elderflower syrup amped up the sweetness to balance the tart berries, and the odd but satisfying sorrel added an extra question mark that made the dish as interesting to taste as to think about.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Richard’s presentation was that he knew how to engage us. It was as if each member of the audience had been invited into his kitchen personally, as he satiated us with personal anecdotes, both funny and serious. He described his close relationship with his lamb farmer, and even took great care in explaining why many people cook lamb wrong and then never try it again.
His ability to cook, present, take questions and also ensure that everyone had a chance to taste what he was making, was above and beyond my expectations at a food demonstration in a mall. Richard even came to sit at the table with us, asking each of us personally what we thought of the meal.
It’s not every day a Michelin-starred chef like Richard Corrigan sets up shop in the middle of a busy mall like Westfield. Learning how he sources his food (either from his own garden or from farmers he knows personally) and why he feels so strongly that slow food is worth the price and the effort, was both informative and persuasive. He made us feel that we should care more about how our food is made. He lives and breathes the food truck philosophy of casual, friendly, pure ingredients and small. And overall he convinced us to take notice of the food trucks, which aren’t restaurants and aren’t trying to be, but are giving us food lovers an experience we can’t get anywhere else.