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david goodfellow

Michelin Guide, Great Britain & Ireland 2013

93 posts in this topic

robert45, I would recommend you try the The Hand and Flowers in Marlow - neither underwhelming nor overpriced. Might change your mind about starred pubs.

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robert45, I would recommend you try the The Hand and Flowers in Marlow - neither underwhelming nor overpriced. Might change your mind about starred pubs.

I have indeed visited the above, earlier in the year whilst on business. To be perfectly honest I found it not only very underwhelming but disappointing, in as much as it having two stars attached to it. Why?? I found the whole experience very average to be honest. I could not understand why such an establishment would be awarded like it has. Almost random. The two star rating was to me completely unjustified and more importantly totally unnecessary. I did actually contact the guide to convey my thoughts because I did think in this case it was just ridiculous on the guides part. Im sure it would be a great pub if it didn't have all the guff of two stars. By the way, one of our party had to send back his beef dish that night, as it was overcooked. I had not ever encountered this in a two star establishment prior.

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That perhaps explains your view. I can only speak from my experience - where the food was excellent.

In a sense, the above is indicative of the value the guide has - in that their inspectors (presumably) visit an establishment a number of times so as to make a balanced judgement.

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Michelin's move to award stars to pubs seems further evidence that it's relevence to the eating public is declining. Whilst I accept that the ingredient-led Sportsman is, perhaps, an exception, I really can't get my head round the concept that places like the Harwood Arms or the Royal Oak Paley Street are offering star quality food, when I compare with other one star restaurants.

To my mind, there's something out of kilter. If those places are worthy of a star, then the UK should have hundreds of one star places.

I have not eaten at the Hand & Flowers so cannot judge if its cooking is on a par with other two star holders such as, say, Sat Bains, L'Enclume, Hibiscus or Le Manoir.


John Hartley

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For approximatley the one millionth time :wink: , if anyone actually read the michelin guide criteria, (which is on the web site and in the releases) it all becomes if not blindingly clear, certainly the logic is apparent.

Restaurants are rated in their category, as are pubs, they are not saying Hand & Flowers is as good as Le Manoir for example, but that it is a very good pub. think of it along those lines and it makes sense.

Whilst a star is a fantastic boost for pubs (and they remain mainly my favoured dining environment, and indeed, i owned one) it does also bring the cross of 'you're not worthy of a star, no amuse, table cloths sommellier etc'. For a proper restaurant it allows you to charge the proper rate, without a star you get 'how can you charge so much? You don't have a star'.

As to Michelin in the TV, I think that is just blatant free adverts from the BBC primarily which amuses me greatly, can't blame them if some researcher or producer has decided that's the benchmark, but there you go......it's obviously got into the mainstream, a customer at Champignon Sauvage once asked them 'If they'd like one of those Michelin Stars' to which they had to politely reply, 'well actually, we've got two' .


you don't win friends with salad

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Restaurants are rated in their category, as are pubs, they are not saying Hand & Flowers is as good as Le Manoir for example, but that it is a very good pub. think of it along those lines and it makes sense.

I look forward to the village cafe getting its star very soon, then.

In it's "category" (like the Michelin website, I'm not defining what a category is), it "offers cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard. A good place to stop on your journey".

I recommend the full fry-up, even though for the £3.80, they no longer include a drink.

And the chippy, down the road, should easily get two stars. Well worth a detour, doncha know.


Edited by Harters (log)

John Hartley

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I must say I agree whole 'Hartley' with above comment.

Each to their own but I have found this whole situation of staring pubs a nonsense. Its all well and good the guide stating its is one star for this and that but I would imagine the mass majority of people who dine out can't ever see a difference. I've yet to hear a chef from a pub suggest they are starred but only in a pub sector. So surely a pub with a michelin star is in a win, win postion. From what I have encountered gaining a star for a pub seems a whole lot easier than it is for a like for like restaurant.

When I was overseas a star was a star but here its all over the place. I would image that a starred pub is talked up far more than what it can deliver? Obviously the guide is trying to be made more accessible to the masses, hence the growing fashion for pubs and the decline in restaurant support.

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For approximatley the one millionth time :wink: , if anyone actually read the michelin guide criteria, (which is on the web site and in the releases) it all becomes if not blindingly clear, certainly the logic is apparent.

Restaurants are rated in their category, as are pubs, they are not saying Hand & Flowers is as good as Le Manoir for example, but that it is a very good pub. think of it along those lines and it makes sense.

Whilst a star is a fantastic boost for pubs (and they remain mainly my favoured dining environment, and indeed, i owned one) it does also bring the cross of 'you're not worthy of a star, no amuse, table cloths sommellier etc'. For a proper restaurant it allows you to charge the proper rate, without a star you get 'how can you charge so much? You don't have a star'.

That's not quite right Gary. The criteria for a 1* restaurant is "Very Good Cooking in its Category" but the "in its Category" qualifier is dropped from the 2* and 3* criteria ("Excellent cooking, worth a detour" and "Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" respectively).

My understanding has always been that 1* hopefuls are judged against other establishments of their category (whether that is pub, dim sum or posh French) but that the 2* and 3* categories are judged against some objective level of quality regardless of category. This limits the ability of pubs to climb beyond 1*.

Hand and Flowers does seem a bit of an anomaly on that rationale (much and all as I liked it, The Sportsman would seem more deserving) but no more egregious than lots of other anomalies we could point to (the UK&I 3* list is in particulalry dire need of pruning - Ducasse/Ramsay/Waterside Inn...)

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I've yet to hear a chef from a pub suggest they are starred but only in a pub sector.

And it raises the interesting question as to at what point does a pub stop being a pub and becomes a restaurant?

Using my examples upthread of the Harwood and the Royal Oak, I'd suggest the line has been well crossed. These places may well be in buildings that were once a pub. They may even have retained the bar. But no-one is popping in for swift half of mild and game of darts. These are restaurants - so in what category do they achieve a star? Are they measured against other restaurants which are in ex-pubs? Does Michelin have a category for restaurants, say, which are in buildings previously a bank (even if they retain the tellers counter)?


John Hartley

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A friend of mine who frequents Michelin star restaurants worldwide was staying in Marlow to visit 3 restaurants, Orwells at Shiplake, The Hand & Flowers and The Vanilla Pod. He asked me which he would enjoy most, I told him the Vanilla Pod without a doubt. He was surprised but agreed entirely after his visit. How on earth did The H&F get two stars was his comment.

One star should be for pubs however good the food, they are basic. Michelin always used to say they took ambiance into account so no way can a pub, without all the trimmings of napery etc., be more that one star.

I am afraid when it comes to guides these days it is a case of who the chef worked with. If he trained under Ramsey or Blanc he has a foot in the door and as soon as he opens his own restaurant a star or a GFG high rating comes along a bit quick, regardless of the quality of the food he is serving up. You get a chef without a pedigree and he can produce some great dishes but rarely get noticed. It is all a case of, not what the chef knows but who he knows.

There is one advantage, it is possible to seek out some very good cooking at a price that has not been over inflated by accolades.


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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I personally think you need to seperate experience from cooking here. I went to the Hand & Flowers recently and don't think it compares to any other 2 star restaurants (note use of word restaurant) I've visited in the UK. However, not to contradict myself, but I can understand why Michelin promoted it despite the lack of liveried staff and usual trappings. Just from a cooking point of view, the ingredients were impeccable and the execution exemplary. OK, it is re-invented pub classics mixed in with more inventive fare, but whatever the dish, the presentation was imaginative and the food hard to find fault with overall . A red wine jus that accompanied my best end of lamb in farce and sweetebreads wrapped in caul crepinette and pastry to create a form of Wellington, was as good as any I've had in the best 3 star; crystal clear and reduced to a depth of flavour that came within an inch of its syrupy life (I can only assume that was Tom's Adlard's heritage shining through; David Adlard was renowned in the industry for his saucing). And to give H&F further credit, the pricing isn't comparable to any other 2 star, it's much, much cheaper.

Lest we forget, the Fat Duck was once a pub. The catering industry was astound when Heston nobbled the 3rd, not because of the cooking, but the venue. Until that point venues were considered everything. It's no secret Ramsey only bought RHR because it was once Tante Claire and Michelin couldn't deny him the 3rd as a result.

I'm not a fan of Michelin. I do find them inconsistent in a world where the one thing they live and die by is consistency. But fair dues, they've really made efforts to move forward and embrace the British scene in recent years. Perhaps their innovation isn't enough though. Maybe, just maybe, they should consider some form of their own Zagat system that separates cooking from service, venue and experience. OK, they have a venue guide in the form of the knife and forks, but still... The advent of the restaurant in gastropub clothing is, I suspect, one that isn't going to go away and will need further consideration. Whilst the French have grown-up with fine dining, grandeur, white linen table cloths and (potential) over-staffing the British have always had their pubs and it's where, ulitmately, they're most comfortable. Put short, there's a cultural gulf and, in an ironic way, the more Michelin attempt to move forward the more exposed it becomes.


Edited by marcusjames (log)

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For approximatley the one millionth time :wink: , if anyone actually read the michelin guide criteria, (which is on the web site and in the releases) it all becomes if not blindingly clear, certainly the logic is apparent.

Restaurants are rated in their category, as are pubs, they are not saying Hand & Flowers is as good as Le Manoir for example, but that it is a very good pub. think of it along those lines and it makes sense.

Whilst a star is a fantastic boost for pubs (and they remain mainly my favoured dining environment, and indeed, i owned one) it does also bring the cross of 'you're not worthy of a star, no amuse, table cloths sommellier etc'. For a proper restaurant it allows you to charge the proper rate, without a star you get 'how can you charge so much? You don't have a star'.

That's not quite right Gary. The criteria for a 1* restaurant is "Very Good Cooking in its Category" but the "in its Category" qualifier is dropped from the 2* and 3* criteria ("Excellent cooking, worth a detour" and "Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" respectively).

My understanding has always been that 1* hopefuls are judged against other establishments of their category (whether that is pub, dim sum or posh French) but that the 2* and 3* categories are judged against some objective level of quality regardless of category. This limits the ability of pubs to climb beyond 1*.

Hand and Flowers does seem a bit of an anomaly on that rationale (much and all as I liked it, The Sportsman would seem more deserving) but no more egregious than lots of other anomalies we could point to (the UK&I 3* list is in particulalry dire need of pruning - Ducasse/Ramsay/Waterside Inn...)

The categories remain things like small hotel, big hotel, red to donate extra luxury etc, so the hand and flowers is still rated as a pub, not a restaurant but the cooking is merited 'worth a detour' .

Don't forget at the end of the day its roots are as a guide for drivers of these new fangled automobiles in unfamilar areas, pre -internet and food critics (probably) so the key still works. Turn up at le manoir on spec and lo and behold it's a luxury restaurant with luxury rooms with good food, the H&F is a pub with better than most food etc.

Does anyone put the same thought into the GFG or AA scoring methodology? I'm sure you'll find they are equally as idiosyncratic, but it just amuses me the arguments that are started all over the internet whether it be '50 best' or michelin when hardly anyone bothers to read the criteria before questioning the judgement.

For what its worth I think the value of Michelin is at the 1* and below level in an unfamilar place where it can guide you to the one decent place in a street full of tourist places.

Above 1* most are so well known they're not hard to find if you're looking for that sort of experience rather than, 'i'm in a small town in france which is the best of these places'. the 1 & 2 knives and forks are especially useful i think, which people rarely talk about.


you don't win friends with salad

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The trope, used by Gill and many other Anglophone commentators, that at some point in the past starred establishments were 'cold', 'hushed' and 'religious' is simply not true. Alain Chapel, the Ostau de Baumaniere, Michel Guerard, Troisgras, The Waterside Inn, Le Gavroche are/were all extremely comfortable and indulgent affairs and anything but the former. These comments, and the fact that they ring true to so many, say more about those that hold such opinions than they do about the type of restaurant that they seek to impute.

For decades, the British have had a massive insecurity complex about any form of eating out. In places like the ones cited above, the feeling of intimidation stems from an inability to enjoy what's on offer. But to conflate these remarkable restaurants with the horrendous hotel dining rooms of the 60s and 70s, which were indeed often 'cold', 'hushed' and 'religious', is just a public profession of ignorance.

Sadly little has changed in our psyche, we still feel very unsure of ourselves and our choices of restaurant are based more than the pathological avoidance of faux pas than any kind of culinary enthusiasm. In order to hedge our investment and maximise social capital we tend to choose the 'it' place over the subtle place. Diners are grateful to have 'scored a table' and the fact we are already participating in a desirable activity almost destroys our critical faculties before we've even set foot in the restaurant. Indeed, since we dine for instrumental purposes, we are careful to protect our investments and when, several hundred pounds the poorer, we roll out of Dabbous/Noma/Fat Duck etc. we make sure to say that it was the best, most mind-blowing meal we ever had. The meal is not for eating, but for showing off like Louboutin shoes or Cath Kidston clad children.

Which all means that in the UK and USA 'fine-dining' is not diner-led; i.e. directed by a knowledgable clientele, but rather PR-led in which marketeers prey upon our insecurities and ignorance. One gets the guidebooks one deserves, and our current examples merely respond to the market's clamour for manuals of etiquette that serve to shore up the social currency of the neurotically class conscious.


Edited by Putty Man (log)

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I can't quite see (yet) the heart of your argument, it seems to be a few vague allusions around the edges, but what is the guts of it all.

Fair enough, I'll restate what I've already claimed upthread, but with a few details. Outside, and unlike, France, Michelin has given up on being an arbiter of taste and now merely follows the pack (although shuffling it a tad in order to remain enigmatic). For me the seminal example is the Fat Duck, although MPW set the scene. MPW was the first Brit who was perceived to be a chef in the stereotypical mould favoured by Michelin. His cooking was never on a par with Koffman, Mosimann or the Rouxs, but who cares? Like Frank Bruno, Britishness trumped talent.

With the advent of the internet, the most recent Anglophone colony, and a first generation of adult users, what counted was 'buzz'. When Heston took up Adriá's postmodernism, it was Heston who got most of the attention for the simple fact that Heston as cooking in English. Sure, hardcore foodies know that HB's debt to el Bulli is huge, but again, compared to Heston's self-effacing British laddishness, Adriá is a rather gauche wog. By elevating the FD to 3* status Michelin also elevated a purported British gastronomic ingenuity to a similar status in the English speaking world. Seemingly no one in the UK didn't want to hitch their cart to this renaissance and peripheral participants suddenly had the chance to take centre stage. Prior to HB, the term British food critic was an oxymoron, but said individuals have worked hard to consolidate their position on a global stage and entities such as Jay Rayner distribute gastronomic pomposity throughout the English speaking world in exchange for coin.

My contention, is that Michelin was a late arrival to this back-slapping party, but was astute enough to realise that the UK no longer wished to be dictated to by the French, irrespective as to whether the French had a valid claim to superior gastronomic knowledge. What follows is a clever, but cynical, recycling of an inbred and deluded nation's opinion of its culinary importance. After all, is Michelin really in the business of educating palates, or are they more interested in sales?

One might wish to argue that the FD has grown into its global reputation, I wouldn't. Cranking out thousands of tasting menus a week, no matter how many chemicals one uses and how complex the recipes, smacks of making hay. Of course, I'd do the same in such a fickle market. However, there was no way that when the FD got 3• it deserved them on any scale. Michelin merely confirmed that Bray was a sort of culinary Carnaby St.

I think michelin is about assessment, judgement & categorisation - not sourcing. I don't personally see the value in using one sourcing methodology vs another. I don't care how you came across or came to know about a restaurant, i care about the quality of the assessment.

Which is where i find myself a bit lost on the novelty act lacking in technique thing, am not sure who you would cite?

This is certainly in accordance with how Michelin would like you to see them.

I can and do disagree with michelin's assessment, can't say i've ever cared about how somewhere came to their attention.

Michelin will never be completely right for anyone. What matters is the degree to which Michelin diverges. When this divergence is patently due to the ability of PRs to unduly influence the media, then, I argue, it does matter.

All social media means is that PR's job gets harder to add value in the traditional ways. They are who used to tell michelin about what's hot.

This is an empirical claim, and as such easy to point out that it is simply not true. PR employees register multiple Twitter accounts and harp on endlessly about the wonders of their clients. Indeed, a certain chef has been the benifiaciary of thousands of tweets affirming his, not obvious, sexual-attractiveness all paid for by the supermarket for which he works. This is because being sexy sells more food, and if your neighbour fancies X then you'll probably fancy him too.

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Putty Man - the cooking at the Fat Duck isn't 3 star standard? Really? Whatever your views on molecular gastronomy, degustation menus or Michelin I don't think there's any doubt it's worthy of its rank.

And from what I understand I think the influence on his cooking owes more to the work of Herve This than Ferran Adria, but I guess only he could really answer that.

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Putty Man - the cooking at the Fat Duck isn't 3 star standard? Really? Whatever your views on molecular gastronomy, degustation menus or Michelin I don't think there's any doubt it's worthy of its rank.

This depends on whether one believes that rank is an expression of ability or whether the rank itself confers qualities upon its holder. An extreme example would be Usain Bolt. There seems to be no doubt that he is currently the fastest human on the planet and thus his rank is entirely indicative of ability. At the other end of the spectrum we the Queen. She didn't actually do anything to earn her rank, yet the fact that she is the Queen confers upon her a significant status.

I would argue that when the FD got its third star, it wasn't a 3* restaurant in any meaningful sense. However, given that most of us rely on guides to undertake the job of ranking on our behalf, the fact that the FD became a 3* restaurant meant that it was a 3* restaurant.

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Have you ever actually eaten there? I know the food splits opinion, pushes boundries and - for many - isn't the most enjoyable meal they'll ever eat; I couldn't get my sister back there if I paid her. However, the quality of ingredients, research and execution is, I think, beyond doubt.

Every one is entitled to their opinion, but to say the FD isn't, or wasn't, a 3 star at the time of elevation is incredulous.

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Every one is entitled to their opinion, but to say the FD isn't, or wasn't, a 3 star at the time of elevation is incredulous.

Couldn't agree more. The star rating doesn't necessarlly mean you will like it, will order something you enjoy (ok this doesn't apply to the FD only set menu) etc but is a way of guiding readers to standards. The FD has excellent quality ingredients cooked to the highest of standards. You might not like the theatre, some of the combinations etc but it certainly merits a top ranking.

There was some suprise when it was elevated from 2 to 3 stars. From my point of view that was not to do with the quality but more shock that Michelin was willing to give 3 stars to something so 'different'.

Andrew


Edited by Andrew (log)

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I know the food splits opinion, pushes boundries and - for many - isn't the most enjoyable meal they'll ever eat; I couldn't get my sister back there if I paid her.
The star rating doesn't necessarlly mean you will like it, will order something you enjoy (ok this doesn't apply to the FD only set menu) etc but is a way of guiding readers to standards. The FD has excellent quality ingredients cooked to the highest of standards. You might not like the theatre, some of the combinations etc but it certainly merits a top ranking.

This is what I meant about protecting one's investment. Unfortunately, to a sceptic like me, it all sounds rather deluded.

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So, to clarify, you have actually been to the FD?

Yes, I have. On several occasions when it was rather charming brasserie and once as 2*. This latter visit was great, interesting food, well cooked with many of the well-documented surprises and tricks. However, it was amateurish, sometimes inconsistent, slightly arrogant and self-important and certainly not world class by a country mile -- in fact, not even comparable to 2* in France.

Anyway, before this thread goes completely off-topic, I'd like to restate my argument that Michelin's elevation of the FD was strategic rather than based on merit; that it was a reaction to the the 50 best list and the power of buzz in nations with weak culinary traditions, and that subsequent Michelin operations in the UK and US have tended to follow this reactive methodology, which, in gastronomic terms tends to make the guide of diminishing worth the further it strays from its French roots.

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