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Chef Richard Corrigan Discusses His New Ballsbridge Venue, Park Café

By Emily Hourican

It’s been hotly anticipated, and now, at last, Richard Corrigan’s Park Café is open for business in Ballsbridge. We catch up with the iconic chef to find out what it’s all about.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in December of 2022.

Hitting back into the swing of things and creating drinks and menus is like catching up with an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. My assistant manager, Carl d’Alton, rejoined us as manager after a sabbatical and came back bursting with energy and ideas, and it really invigorated the team, as he’s a passionate guy.

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The Park Café is a new all-day restaurant located in the Ballsbridge area that will shine a spotlight on seasonality via a range of thoughtfully curated dishes and drinks. The Park Café’s concept references Richard Corrigan’s country estate in County Cavan – Virginia Park Lodge. Produce for the Park – everything from Savoy cabbages, pumpkins and blackcurrants to pork from Corrigan’s beautiful Oxford Sandy and Black pigs – will travel just 60 minutes down the road to the Park Café and be delivered daily. This abundant access to fresh local produce will drive the restaurant’s set of constantly evolving menus.

The ground-floor seafood counter will offer the best of Irish seafood, including Sally Barnes’ smoked fish and natural or dressed oysters from Flaggy Shore and Réalt na Mara. Other specialities, such as local snails from Cavan’s Inis Escargot, will also be on offer throughout the restaurant. Expect Corrigan’s famous Bentley’s fish pie – featuring smoked haddock, prawns, and Clare Island salmon – and dishes like the roasted Oxford ‘Sandy and Brown’ piglet with crab apple and pickled mustard seeds, roasted roots, and jalapeño are designed for sharing.

Corrigan said, “To call me a proud Irishman would be the understatement of the century, so to be opening the Park Café in Dublin, Ireland, is something really very special for me. I can’t tell you how excited I am to bring bucketloads of the Corrigan warmth and hospitality to Shelbourne Road, and to showcase some of the finest Irish produce, most of which we grow at Virginia Park Lodge – just an hour away.”

Front of house will be Ronan Ryan, with previous experience in running some of Dublin’s finest dining establishments, including Le Comptoir Café and Town Bar & Grill.

The Park Bar, on the first floor, offers a small-plate menu with a drinks list broken into classic cocktails and beers, and a progressive, off-piste wine list. The artisanal list (80 bins) is a mix of international producers and features wines from Corrigan’s cellar, with many available by both the glass and carafe. Music will be played on vinyl, and a projector screen will appear on key rugby days.

Interiors of the expansive space have been designed by Kerry-based fatherand-daughter duo Vaughan Designs. The pair have taken inspiration from Corrigan’s timeless, natural cooking and the restaurant’s reliance on the Virginia Park Lodge gardens. The 16-seater whitemarble-topped seafood counter downstairs is overlooked by soft lighting and surrounded by banquettes for 50, each lined with hunter-green leather. French wicker-style high chairs that line the oyster bar mirror the Parisian cafe style referenced on the restaurant’s 40- cover all-weather terrace. With its chequered flooring, the outdoor space has a sealed winter roof that is fully retractable in the warmer summer months. The dark hues of the downstairs banquettes are transferred to the upper floor, where traditional trellis shutters are coloured in a dark-green tone.

So, Richard, tell us: what will the Park Café bring to Dublin/ Ballsbridge?

Essentially, we’re bringing a neighbourhood restaurant to the area. That’s all we want to do – nothing fussy. We just want people to have a nice time, enjoy some great food and drink – something that makes them happy. I truly believe Ireland is the home of good oldfashioned hospitality, so we’ll be dishing it out in droves at the Park Café.

Tell us a bit about menus, suppliers, etc.

For us, it’s all about produce, produce, produce. You can be an amazing chef, but if you’re working with poor-quality food, then you’ll never make a cracking dish. Everything from Savoy cabbages, pumpkins and blackcurrants to pork from the Oxford Sandy and Black pigs we have at Virginia Park Lodge – our country estate in County Cavan – will travel just 60 minutes down the road, to be served at the Park Café. We do daily deliveries of everything. Then there’s Corleggy cheeses – just the best, snails from Inis Escargot, based in County Cavan, and the best Irish smoked fish, from the likes of Frank Hederman at Belvelly Smokehouse and Sally Barnes at Woodcock Smokery. We’re using the absolute best produce around.

How do you feel about the opening, i.e. is it a good time, etc.?

Scared, nervous, shaking to death – like with all openings, really! The roof could fall in, the pipes could burst, your whole team could walk out, but I honestly love it. Restaurants are in my blood, and the thrill of opening one in Dublin just means so much. It’s worth the stress! We’ve had some really positive reviews in The Irish Times and Irish Independent from two critics who really know their bacon, so that’s been a huge pat on the back for the team.

How will the Park work with the rest of your businesses – any interesting symbioses?

We’re a family-run, family-owned business, and we’re all about people. Having the best people in the kitchen and out the front, looking after our guests, is at the core of everything we do. If you’ve been to a Corrigan restaurant in London, you’ll see those similarities here at the Park Café.

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How will you divide your time?

I split my time between London and Ireland already, as I’m always at Virginia Park Lodge, overseeing the growing programme there. Right now, my focus is on helping the team find their rhythm in the kitchen, so you’ll see me at the Park Café most days.

How has the process of opening been in terms of finding staff?

Finding staff will always be an issue, and it’s one that is crippling our industry, currently. There’s a number of reasons for that – don’t get me started on Brexit! – but all we can do is focus on trying to put the right people in the right positions and giving them all the tools they need to grow and thrive.

Anything else that we should know about the Park Café?

It has a wonderful bar up on the first floor, which I’m very fond of. I think we’re going to have lots of fun up there! We’ve gone with an off-piste wine list, with a mix of international producers and even a few from my own wine cellar – and, of course, you can get a good pint of Guinness, too.

Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription