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david goodfellow

Michelin Guide, Great Britain & Ireland 2013

93 posts in this topic

There does seem to be two lines of thought with regards to Michelin, one being they only rate the 'best of the best' and the other being, they are very politically motivated, underhand, out of touch and generally far too full of their own (worthless) importantance. I certainly favour the latter where the UK guide is concerned.

What really does it offer these days other than a hotch potch level of standards, that are so confusing to many and I'd image very unjust to establishments that are not constantly over hyped or are pr, media driven.

Some very interesting stories starting to unfold over in New York with the rapid two star award given to Atera. Reading between the lines it is being suggested that the guide would have had no way to rate this place in such a short time frame. Apparently the establishment is harder to reserve a table than a place would have been at the last supper. So with michelin only booking under false names, having to visit multipul times, which they state is required to award two stars, one does start wonder what really is going on?

Politically motivated..........

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Putty Man, I like a lot of your arguments here, and I think many them ring true. That said, I'm not sure that Michelin's inconsistency in the UK and Ireland guide is all about elevation of the unworthy. Especially at the 1-star level, I've eaten quite a few meals at restaurants in France that I am *convinced* would not receive a star in Ireland if you transplanted them in their entirety. Of course, Ireland doesn't have a culinary tradition, nor does it have any kind of buzz that would register with Michelin at all, and historically it seemed that Michelin were barely conscious of top-drawer cooking in Ireland. For a long time I believed that it was much harder to get a star in Ireland than in France, and certainly much harder than in NY. The recent elevations here possibly hint at a shift in this policy, but actually they just make things more confusing IMO. We'll see how it plays out.

I can't comment widely about the UK aside from noting that my rare meals in Michelin-starred "buzz" restaurants have been disappointing.

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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.

I think this is part of the problem.

conflating your opinion of the establishment, with how it is rated by michelin. it is, what it is, not a michelin pub. as in it is as good as it is, in a broad absolute. Within that construct, Michelin have passed an opinion on how they regard it. (sorry if that's a bit circular).

there is no cozy relationship between Kerridge and Michelin per se.

as for the judgement on the food at the Hand and Flowers, my own experience could not be more different. the quality of cooking, precision, timing of the dishes was first class on a recent visit. surprisingly delicate, with very good ingredient quality.

I am also interested in what you mean by beef dish being sent back because its been overcooked? if its steak not cooked to your liking then sure, if its Tartare I can see the problem ;) but otherwise, its more than likely a daube, braise or similar. that isn't coming medium rare. The only reason I mention this is the description as a beef dish, and not a steak - also kerridge is known for his slow cooking of cheeks and less common cuts. and if your steak has not been prepared to your specification, sending it back is only fair. not sure, I would qualify that as evidence of a restaurants broader technical failings though.

again, appreciate that might seem pedantic.


A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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

is it? personally, I am not sure how the question leads to any useful distinction?


A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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is it?

Sorry - not sure I understand your question. Is it what?

Do you mean is it an interesting question? Well, yes, generally speaking it is to me - I wouldnt have made the point otherwise.

In the context of this discussion, the "useful distinction" is relevent to Michelin awarding its one-stars to categories, as Gary points out. If a pub is awarded a star and then later morphs into being a restaurant, you might well expect it to lose its star as it's no longer in the same category - even though nothing else changes. The fact that this doesnt seem to happen suggests that, in practice, Michelin's talk of its "categories" is just bollocks.


John Hartley

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Thanks for the response, I'm going to take issue with a few things but before I do that I'd like to acknowledge that I am not specifically pulling out your posts for any other reason than I find them interesting. Pam's prosaic claims that Michelin is about who you know isn't very interesting as an example.

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.

I could come to this point more easily except I know from a direct, personal standpoint, that Koffman could not disagree with you more on MPW. Mosimann doesn't belong in this conversation.

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.

ok, that's your conclusion, your assertion, but its a fairly loosely supported one. the association of Heston and Adria seems to be one of Molecular approach, rather than any specific influence or technical commonality. Michelin's job is to be relevant in its markets where it produces guides, so there is an element of Britishness at play I suspect. I do not see any evidence within or outside your argument however, that would support Heston as some of divining rod of a new british food renaissance. any more than MPW or GR in recent times.

I can't begin to understand the comment about critics, that's a plain nonsense.

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?

I can't even quite work out what the contention actually is, confused within its own tautologies. I think its true that Michelin is keen to make sure it remains relevant, and that there are some commericial considerations but this is hardly a new thing and there is no new paradigm that I can see any basis or evidence for. if Nico and Marco weren't handing back their stars, I don't think Gordon gets his third, but that's the cynic in me - I can't prove this. I just cannot however, see any basis for suggesting there has been a step change with HB.

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.

hold on, I think it might be possible to argue with more time and inclination that the FD benefited from the new molecular movement, and its ascendency within that - just as all movements have their leaders and beneficiaries. But that is no different to Nouvelle Cuisine, and we have more classical 3* and very heavily influenced nouvelle 3*'s today. I'm particularly not minded towards the classic, as it seems tired and out of touch today, but that's just my view.

I am not sure I can take that view and then insist people who do favour such approaches are blinded by an anachronistic allegiance to historical hegemony.

if we ascribe MG as a valid culinary movement, as I feel we must, then FD is just a restaurant at its vanguard neither its finest, nor an imposter.

Personally, I think the FD has evolved enormously, but not on the plate. service, theatre, precision and timing are all of a level far, far greater than the back slapping good old days, of being able to have prix fixes lunches. the experience is a complete one, but its lack of modal variation leaves it a bit cold for me. change the bloody record for heaven's sake Heston.

I also think its just plain wrong to suggest a meal here is not considerably more refined today than 10 years ago, it is also imo, not as much fun. It is for me, by any definition worthy of 3*'s and is far from the fringe of that designation.

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

that is certainly platitudinous :raz:

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.

I think if anything, over the last 5 years or so, the media has followed michelin not vice versa. this is why ordinary, non foodie folk even know what a michelin star is these days. that and social media.

I cannot accept an argument that purports to align the media/PR and Michelin on one side, and popular opinion on the other. should this divergence exist anywhere other than the imagination, then Michelin would have died off long ago.

you cannot be an arbiter of taste and style without having your own sensibilities accepted and acknowledged as providing worth.

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.

I can believe the claim, but that is not the point. what matters is the extent to which this can be shown to have had influence. it can all be true (and perhaps it is) but unless that can then be extended to show the impact that this has had on someone's ratings then its just gossip and trivia. for example, I cannot imagine Michel Roux getting his third back any time soon, and with the amount of publicity he has had recently, then under your regime he should already have it.

I really do think there is an interesting, and potential valid view point in here, but its all too full of circular arguments and tin foil hats.


A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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is it?

Sorry - not sure I understand your question. Is it what?

Do you mean is it an interesting question? Well, yes, generally speaking it is to me - I wouldnt have made the point otherwise.

In the context of this discussion, the "useful distinction" is relevent to Michelin awarding its one-stars to categories, as Gary points out. If a pub is awarded a star and then later morphs into being a restaurant, you might well expect it to lose its star as it's no longer in the same category - even though nothing else changes. The fact that this doesnt seem to happen suggests that, in practice, Michelin's talk of its "categories" is just bollocks.

what I mean is that is not an interesting question at all. pointless.

there may be stylistic concessions to the type of food, but there should be none to the quality and execution. and Gary's point does not claim there is (vis a vis quality and execution).


A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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what I mean is that is not an interesting question at all. pointless.

Thanks for your observation.


John Hartley

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Okay Scott, I've said my piece and since I'm not preparing a monograph on the subject I think I'm just going to have to leave it.

However, before I remove my tinfoil hat, I can't resist taking up this comment.

I'm particularly not minded towards the classic, as it seems tired and out of touch today, but that's just my view.

Are you suggesting that the qualities that made the classic once good no longer hold today? Or was it perhaps tired and out of touch when it was current? If the answer to either of these questions is, 'yes', I'd be fascinated to know on what basis something that was once good can be no longer good, unless, of course, you see dining in terms of social currency. Indeed, if this were the case this would probably account for our differing opinions.


Edited by Putty Man (log)

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I'd be fascinated to know on what basis something that was once good can be no longer good,

I'll leave Scott to answer for himself.

But I'll happily take the position that something once good is no longer good. These things are inherently subjective - they are very much "beauty being in the eye of the beholder". I can well remember food from when I first started eating out in the early 1970s that I would have thought good but wouldnt give the time of day to nowadays. I am of the generation and backgound that happily ate in Berni Inns - going there for celebrations. It was, in my experience then, "good food". Wouldnt think that now.

I understand that some folk might think there is a "gold standard" in food which sits there, unchanging, for all time. I would just have to disagree with them.


John Hartley

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Okay Scott, I've said my piece and since I'm not preparing a monograph on the subject I think I'm just going to have to leave it.

no problem. My issue is that I don't think you have actually said anything. In fact it appears you have gone out of your way to avoid doing so.

Conspicuously.

Are you suggesting that the qualities that made the classic once good no longer hold today? Or was it perhaps tired and out of touch when it was current? If the answer to either of these questions is, 'yes', I'd be fascinated to know on what basis something that was once good can be no longer good, unless, of course, you see dining in terms of social currency. Indeed, if this were the case this would probably account for our differing opinions.

Gosh, I am not even sure you are serious?

aesthetic qualities are always a function of their time, and it would be true to say the highest value is ascribed to those qualities that endure, fine art being an easy example. However, just as shakespeare and puccini were considered mindless dross, pop of their time, it is not necessarily fixed in stone either.

Nor is it true that something cannot have ever been good if it has been superceded, if times have moved on or if the audience has changed taste or become more informed/sophisticated over an observed period.

The difference between the historical & the contemporary is often evolution.

If you would like to deny evolution I am sure there are no end of wonderful places to express that ;)


A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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I have since moving to London last year been to the majority of the one stars, all the two stars and all the three stars. Most of the time I find Michelin's ratings totally mind boggling. One can take off a star from most places to convert to what they would have in France. Of the one stars that gained a star last year (not been to Hedone and Trishna) only Alyn Williams deserves a star and not by much compared to Michelin's standard in Paris for example. The star awards to St John Hotel and Medlar for instance are nothing short of a joke. Dabbous is a very lite and a not very good English version of Septime and Saturne, none of which have been considered worthy of a star in two respective three Michelin guides.

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I have since moving to London last year been to the majority of the one stars, all the two stars and all the three stars. Most of the time I find Michelin's ratings totally mind boggling. One can take off a star from most places to convert to what they would have in France. Of the one stars that gained a star last year (not been to Hedone and Trishna) only Alyn Williams deserves a star and not by much compared to Michelin's standard in Paris for example. The star awards to St John Hotel and Medlar for instance are nothing short of a joke. Dabbous is a very lite and a not very good English version of Septime and Saturne, none of which have been considered worthy of a star in two respective three Michelin guides.

I think you'll find Hedone hits the spot, and the ratings are country specific, though at 2 and above european inspectors apparently have a say. Fair to say it is not a new issue.


you don't win friends with salad

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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.

If they're following trends set by 50 best why are so many top 50 restaurants, Noma included, only 2 star? Noma's topped the list almost as many times as El Bulli, the fact it's only 2 star puzzles me. I can only imagine it has to do with the more informal setting, which goes directly against Michelin's claim that the stars are solely for the food.

James.

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Haha, or maybe it's just not that good?


you don't win friends with salad

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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.
If they're following trends set by 50 best why are so many top 50 restaurants, Noma included, only 2 star? Noma's topped the list almost as many times as El Bulli, the fact it's only 2 star puzzles me. I can only imagine it has to do with the more informal setting, which goes directly against Michelin's claim that the stars are solely for the food.

It is likely that the criteria for three Michelin stars is different to getting enough votes to feature on the top 50 best restaurants of the world. There are numerous three-star restaurants that are not even on the 51-100 list. There are more than 100 restaurants with 3 stars. On the 1-100 on the 50 best, without counting properly, less than a third of the entries have three Michelin stars. So, since three Michelin stars does not guarantee entry on the list, it seems that the criteria and circumstances required for getting enough votes differs from getting (three) stars from Michelin.

The argument that Noma is too informal to get three stars is not very convincing since there are numerous restaurants that have been awarded three stars despite very informal service and despite not possessing the setting normally associated with three Michelin stars. Brooklyn Fare and l’Astrance to name two.

I frankly find it hard to get upset. Some of my favourite restaurants, Michel Bras and Olivier Roellinger to name two were awarded three stars quite late. I thought the meals I had there were some of the best I had ever had but I could understand why Michelin held back with the third star.

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I'm not sure why we're even debating why some 3 stars aren't on the top 50 list why some on the top 50 don't have 3 stars. The Michelin guide is ....wait for it.....a guide. The Top 50 is a PR exercise which occasionally has some correlation with some of the best restaurants in the world.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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