1. How many Michelin starred restaurants are in Great Britain and Ireland?
In the 2020 Michelin Guide there are a total of 187 Michelin star restaurants with either one, two or three stars: five three stars, 23 two stars and 159 one star restaurants. The total number of stars awarded is 220 of which 34 are new. Michelin says this is the highest number of new stars it has ever given out, but once deletions are factored in the guide’s generosity has only resulted in around a 5% increase on 2019 in terms of the total number of stars given out.
2. Who is the world’s most Michelin-starred chef?
First and foremost it’s important to make the rather pedantic point that restaurants win Michelin stars, not chefs. However this fact does little to stop people assigning them to chefs and restaurateurs. When he died on 6 August 2018 Joël Robuchon oversaw a group of restaurants that had a total of 31 stars between them (a year or so before his passing it was 32). A handful of his restaurants have closed following his death (including his London outpost, although two Robuchon-branded restaurants will open in the capital before the year is out) but he is currently still the world’s most Michelin-decorated chef and it will be some time until anyone else comes close to that number.
Another Frenchman (well, Monégasque, but close enough) Alain Ducasse comes second with his total number of stars recently clocked at 21 (he was also the first chef ever to operate a trio of three Michelin-starred restaurants at the same time). Spanish chef Martin Berasategui takes third place with a total of 10 Michelin-stars. Our own Gordon Ramsay is tied for fourth place with Thomas Keller (both have seven Michelin stars in total).
3. Who is Great Britain and Ireland’s most Michelin-starred chef or restaurateur?
If you’re counting stars attached to restaurants overseas it is (unsurprisingly given the above) Gordon Ramsay. If you’re only looking at restaurants in Great Britain and Ireland it’s a different story, however. Ramsay once had a total of eight Michelin stars on these shores but following splits, some amicable, others less so, with some of his key talents - including Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton and Angela Hartnett - he now has just four (his three-star flagship Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and the one-star Petrus).
Heston Blumenthal pips Ramsay to the post with a total of six stars: three for The Fat Duck, two for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and one for Hinds Head. Tied with Blumenthal is JKS Restaurants with a total of six stars, although as a backer of some of London’s biggest cooking talents - including James Knappet, Nieves Barragán Mohacho and James Lowe - some might argue the Sethi family has an unfair advantage. Third place is another tie: both the Roux family and Lebanese-born restaurateur Marlon Abela can lay claim to five Michelin stars, although the future of the latter group looks uncertain following reports that the Mayfair restaurant mogul has been served with a bankruptcy petition.
4. Aside from London, which city in the UK and Ireland has the most stars?
Dublin has a total of eight Michelin stars including a duo of two star restaurants. Birmingham takes third place with six, Bristol has five, Edinburgh has four and Belfast has three. It’s not a city (far from it) but Bray - which is home to The Fat Duck, The Waterside Inn and Hinds Head - has seven Michelin stars. According to the 2001 Census the moneyed Berkshire village has a population of 9,110 which by our maths means it has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere in the world. San Sebastian is claimed to be the city with the most Michelin stars per capita, but is roundly beaten by Bray (it has over ten times more stars per capita).
5. Which Great Britain and Ireland restaurant has held a Michelin star for the longest period?
The Michelin Guide launched in the UK way back in 1931 but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first lot of stars were announced. The Roux family’s Le Gavroche is the only restaurant still trading to have consistently held stars since then, although it has moved locations in that period from Chelsea to Mayfair.
The restaurant was awarded one star in 1974 and in 1977 became the first restaurant in Great Britain and Ireland to receive two stars. In 1982 following a move to its current location on Brook Street it became the first restaurant in the Great Britain and Ireland to win three stars. A decade or so later it lost its third star as the chef patron formally changed from Albert Roux to his son Michel Roux Jr.
The second longest Michelin-rated restaurant is The Waterside Inn, another restaurant owned by the Roux family. Opened by the Roux brothers in the early 70s following the success of Le Gavroche, the Bray restaurant has held three Michelin stars since 1985 and is now the longest standing three star outside of France.
In terms of unbroken runs nobody else in the UK and Ireland comes close to the Rouxs, although honourable mentions should go to Rutland’s Hambleton Hall, which has held a Michelin star since 1983, Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, which has held two stars since 1984, Dublin’s Patrick Guilbaud, which has been a starred restaurant since 1989 and has held two stars since 1996, and Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, which has held a single star since 1990.
6. What are the biggest shocks in this year’s guide?
Eye-wateringly expensive Mayfair restaurant The Araki going from three stars to zero is the biggest shock in this year’s guide. Following chef patron Mitsuhiro Araki’s return to Japan it was expected to lose one or even two of its stars, but few would have expected the restaurant to crash out with nothing. Given that the team, menu and produce used is largely the same can standards really have dropped to that degree?
As is often the case, a number of restaurants that most would have been expected to be obvious and worthy choices for a star this year have come up short, including but by no means limited to Tom Brown’s Cornerstone,Monica Galetti’s Mere, Ben Murphy’s Launceston Place, Tom Kemble at The Pass, Anton Piotrowski’s Roski and Indian Accent.
7. What are the biggest controversies surrounding the Michelin Guide?
Michelin doesn’t endear itself to a UK audience by continuing to focus on (usually) French chefs that cook relatively classic French food and hold stars in other countries at – many believe – the expense of homegrown talents. Pierre Gagnaire’s The Lecture Room at Sketch being awarded three stars in the 2020 guide is a prime example of this, as is a second star for Anne-Sophie Pic at La Dame de Pic. Like most restaurant guides and lists, Michelin struggles with diversity of all kinds, not least gender and cuisine type.