Michelin’s UK and Ireland awards reflect diversity of culinary landscape

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Twenty-five restaurants have been awarded Michelin stars in Britain and Ireland, with the selection reflecting diversity across the culinary landscape from refined pub cooking to classic French technique, via Indian and west African cuisine. 

This year’s results, which mark 50 years since restaurants in the two countries were first awarded a Michelin star, were announced at Manchester’s Midland Hotel — the first in-person ceremony held outside of London.

Despite the northern locale, the ceremony was particularly fruitful for London restaurants, with The Ledbury in Notting Hill, led by chef-owner Brett Graham, the only restaurant awarded three stars this year. It joined the ranks of eight other three-star restaurants, which all maintained their status.

The Michelin Guide, owned by the French tyre company, was conceived as an aid to European motorists and launched at the turn of the 20th century. It is widely recognised as an arbiter of fine dining, with Michelin stars the world’s most influential culinary award.

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Of the 18 establishments awarded one star, 11 are London-based, including Tomos Parry’s Mountain, one of the capital’s most notable openings of the past year; Aulis; Humo; Pavyllon London at the Four Seasons; 1890 at the Savoy; Dorian; Humble Chicken; and two west African restaurants, Akoko and Chishuru.

“I’m speechless, which is not what I usually am,” said Chishuru’s chef-owner Adejoké Bakare, who has become a de facto representative for west African cuisine in the UK, after picking up her trophy.

Six restaurants were given two stars, including Mayfair’s Gymkhana, which became the only Indian restaurant in the UK capital with the accolade. Chef Aktar Islam’s Opheem in Birmingham was also awarded a second star, staking a claim as one of the country’s best Indian restaurants.

“It’s incredible,” Islam said after receiving his award. “My journey started 31 years ago when I got kicked out of school, and it just shows what this industry can give someone with no prospects.”

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Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, said: “When we look at the global culinary scene, Great Britain and Ireland really stand out for their diversity . . . The spotlight for me is on the three Indian chefs being awarded tonight, one at one star [Hrishikesh Desai of Cumbria’s Cedar Tree] and two at two stars.”

He added that the guide’s restaurant inspectors, who remain anonymous and represent 25 different nationalities, are based all over the world but work as a single team to ensure consistency in ratings across the 45 destinations that Michelin covers. They assess a venue based on five criteria: the quality of ingredients, harmony of flavours, mastery of techniques, “the personality of the chef as expressed through their cuisine”, and consistency across the menu — and over time. 

Le Gavroche in London, which closed at the end of January, earned the UK’s first star a half-century ago in 1974. Michel Roux Jr, chef-patron for more than three decades and head of arguably Britain’s best-known culinary family, was welcomed at Manchester with a standing ovation. He received the Mentor Chef 2024 award for fostering the next generation of chefs through his hospitality businesses and the Roux scholarship programme, which places up-and-coming chefs in secondments around the world.

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Roux Jr presented this year’s Young Chef award to Jake Jones of Forge restaurant in North Yorkshire, which was also awarded a Green star for its emphasis on sustainability.

The Michelin Guide has faced scrutiny in recent years, with some critics deeming it too elitist and too focused on classic French technique. They say that chefs’ creativity is stifled and encourages them to opt for cuisine they believe will win, and maintain, accolades.

“The first advice we would always say to chefs is work for the client and not for the Michelin Guide, because all of our inspectors are just regular guests,” Poullennec said. “They come [anonymously], they eat, they pay, they go. There is no one way to the star.”

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/5d22788a-1333-4a90-918e-0d73ca9e5223