Daffodil Mulligan, Old Street, London 18/20

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DAFFODIL Mulligan sits right in the middle of the Old Street maelstrom of construction work, beautifully trimmed in steel and black stone with yellow motif, surrounded currently by ubiquitous orange cones and bright red crash barriers. And a scarf of idling cars and buses.

Daffodil herself is according to the 1938 song “hale and hearty and the life of the party” and there is a basement bar for music and carousing

Welcome to the nightmare of Old Street, perhaps a tarmac manifestation of these troubled times, Mr Corrigan, aka Richard, aka Mr Bentley. As it happens I am reading Margaret Hickey’s excellent book on Food in Ireland (Unbound) and Corrigan has his name blazed across the front and in the preface by way of endorsement.

I am half expecting cabbage and bacon on the menu but Corrigan is not really what you would call an Irish chef, more of a Marco Pierre White with an accent. There is kale on toast. There is stout. There are oysters. But there are other things too.

Many years ago, in another era, when Richard first opened in Soho, a young A.A Gill, aka Mr Amber Rudd (yes there are politics even when it comes to restaurant writing) penned a very rare complimentary review in the Sunday Times, the first for many months. The switchboard and telephone exchanges collapsed as five million readers tried to book 10 tables. Newspaper reviews can be a bit disproportionate like that.

There is a sign on the door saying One thousand welcomes. It is a modern space, an L shape dominated by a bar  from where you can see every corner of the room and big overhead lights drop down on you like dumplings.

IMG_2825It has more of the feel of a slick diner than a comfy cushioned restaurant. In the corner tucked away is a burning woodfire for cooking.IMG_2837

There is a tasting six course menu at £50 including a glass of stout which is about what you can expect to pay here which is not excessive given that we are on the City fringes and the heart of hipsterdom. Well not for this quality anyway. We got distracted by the starters, which was a mistake. We could have had grubben (trotters) with mashed swede or even Totenham curd with beetroot and pomegranite.  We opted for the kale:

IMG_2829 And then something rare by way of a Dorset cherry clam which had been spiced with a tiny shard of lime pickle that looks like sea urchin.IMG_2828 And three mounds of cod’s roe with some salmon as garnish and some seeded crispbread to smear it on.IMG_2832And then this pretty as you please ceviche of bass with chilli and orange.IMG_2833And a beef tartar which came in an oyster shell and a blob of oyster cream and is one of those that get you talked about. Very, very good.IMG_2831All or a few of these are good sharing dishes which makes them good value and leaves some change for main events from the wood oven including lobster or Hannah’s sugar pit pork or diverting specials like salt baked chicken or scallop ceviche with a Goan curry. Or game pie.

This is the back sole from the wood fired oven, cut horizontally off what must have ben a sizeable fish, set on a mess of cavolero nero or something you might have to refer to Hickey’s book to identify, together with some sparkling roasted grapes and hazelnuts which gives a totally different idiom from a pan fried and grilled versions. The pumpkin garnish also gets a roasting.IMG_2834Side dishes include mash with bone marrow crumb, roasted carrots or pruple sprouting brocolli with an anchoide mousse.

Front of house is run by Richie who is Richard’s son. The downstairs bar Gibney’s is an offshoot of Dublin’s which boasts 27 beers on tap and a wine cellar more than 500 bottles strong. A serious craic, you might conclude. They are not messing around here. If you have to choose one restaurant to survive the coming onslaught, I would opt for this one.

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