The Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland was launched in front of an audience of 400, among them 180 chefs, at London’s Imax cinema this week, reports Tina Nielsen
While 21 restaurants received their first star, three were awarded two stars on a night of emotion and excitement.
Chef Clare Smyth who opened her first solo venture Core by Clare Smyth in London this year after heading up the three-starred restaurant Gordon Ramsay between 2007 and 2016, went straight to two stars.
Her former boss and mentor Gordon Ramsay was there to present all the new recipients with their white Michelin jackets, which made it an extra special occasion for Smyth. “It is even more special that Gordon is here handing it to me,” she said. “We have put so much work and effort into the restaurant and it is amazing to go straight to two stars.”
It was a big night, too, for Gwendal Poullennec, the new international director of The Michelin Guide who took over this summer following Michael Ellis’ departure. Though Poullennec has worked with Michelin for 15 years, this was his first appearance at a guide launch as the director.
“The Michelin Guide allows diners to find the best places to eat whatever their taste or budget,” he said. “In a world dominated by opinion reviews by experts are invaluable. You need trusted recommendations and this is what the Michelin guide offers. He promised to accelerate the development of the guide potfolio across the world as he takes over development.
The little red book has often come in for criticism that is is outdated, stale and old in its methods, but judging by the 2019 class of one-stars inspectors have embraced riskier choices.
Out of London’s total of six new one stars, two were in Hackney (Brat and Leroy), one a tapas bar (Sabor) and one featuring modern west african flavours (Ikoyi). Chef Ollie Dabbous was among the new recipients for Hide London (previously featured in Foodservice Consultant, here) and Simon Rogan was also awarded a star for his latest venture in London.
Outside the capital notable additions included Chris Simpson at Gidleigh Park who follows in a long line of renowend chefs; Steve Drake of Sorrel in Dorking who won his first star back in 2003 when he headed up the kitchen in Drake’s at the Pond; and Tim Allen who took over as chef-partner at Daniel Clifford’s Flitch of Bacon earlier this year.
The Irish contingent of three new one stars all came from the Cork region.
Some of the newly awarded one-star restaurants have only recently opened, which may make some commentators wonder whether they make the decisions too soon to properly judge whether a given restaurant is really deserving of the star. But Rebecca Burr, director of the guide, laughed at the notion; “The job has to come with a certain kind of risk. OK, yes, some have only been open six months but what do we do, wait another year? Then they’ll say that we missed the boat,” she said. “I think if we feel sure, the chef owner is at the stove, he is not haphazard, there is going to be creativity but he is not experimental, you can tell.”
Burr said the year had started off quiet, but then picked up. “I think there is a fantastic selection in the new stars, the variety is wonderful. There are new chefs there but also some who have been striving for it for some time,” she said. “There is a good cross section there that is never intentional it all just comes together”.
Another of Ramsays’ former charges, James Knappett, likely received the biggest surprise of the night as his restaurant Kitchen Table by Bubbledogs was upgraded from one to two stars. Speechless at first, the chef motioned for his wife and business partner Sandia Chang to join him on stage.
“I did not expect this,” said Knappett. “I have lived in this world for so long. I left cooking for a while because it was too hard, but since I came back this has been the driver of it all.”
His emotional response to the Michelin stars is hard evidence, if any was needed, that this is an accolade that continues to be highly prized by chefs across the world.
Full list of the new stars in the 2019 Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland
Core by Clare Smyth, Kensington, London
Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall, in Lancashire
James Knappett’s Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs in Camden, London
Tomos Parry’s Brat in Hackney, London
Jeremy Chan’s Ikoyi in Westminster, London
Nieves Barragan and José Etura’s Sabor in Westminster, London
Ollie Dabbous’ Hide in Mayfair, London
Sam Kamienko, Ed Thaw and Jack Lewens’ Leroy in Hackney, London
Simon Rogan’s Roganic in Westminster, London
Simon Rogan’s Rogan & Co in Cumbria
Chris Simpson’s Gidleigh Park in Devon
Steve Drake’s Sorrel in Dorking, Surrey
Tim Allen’s Flitch of Bacon in Essex
Chris Cleghorn’s Olive Tree in Bath
Colin McGurran’s Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire
Paul Foster’s Salt in Stratford-Upon-Avon
Paul Welburn’s Oxford Kitchen in Oxfordshire
Daniel Smith’s Fordwich Arms in Canterbury
Tom Parker’s White Swan in Fence, Lancashire
Dom Robinson’s Blackbird in Newbury
George Livesey’s Bulrush in Bristol
Ahmet Dede’s Mews in Baltimore, County Cork
Takashi Miyazaki’s Ichigo Ichie in Cork
Rob Krawczyk’s Chestnut in Ballydehob, Cork