Restaurants have been closed for most of 2020 and all of 2021. What’s Michelin’s rational?
Like restaurants themselves, Michelin has had to pivot In these unprecedented times. The awards had been planned to be held at The Roundhouse in Camden back in October last year with members of the public being invited for the first time, but the pandemic put paid to those plans. It was then expected to take place at The Dorchester, but the Coronavirus has prevented that from happening as well, so it is instead being run as an online virtual event on Monday 25 January. In a statement published last week Michelin said it was going ahead with the guide to ‘promote the industry as much as we possibly can’. ‘We want to shine a light on our industry, to keep people talking about it in the media and remind everyone of what we have, and to bring news of our great restaurants to a global audience’, the statement said
Surely the guide’s inspection schedule was seriously disrupted…
While Michelin acknowledges that there were challenges it says that the team started working on the guide in August 2019 and that much of the work was done before the first lockdown hit. Delaying the guide by four months and going digital only has meant it has been able to get everything done with readers and restaurants assured that ‘no shortcuts were taken’ and that ‘the methodology remained the same and there was no change in the standards looked for’.
So, who's in the running for a star this year?
It's hard to say, but there is hope among chefs that Michelin might be more generous with its awarding of stars than in previous years given its current mission statement about promoting restaurants. If we were to have a stab at it we'd like to see Tom Brown's Cornerstone be awarded its first star and also accolades for what Tom Booton is doing at The Dorchester, The Quality Chop House, Akoko, and Launceston Place. Outside of London, what Luke French Is doing at Joro is star worthy in our book as is Hove's Little Fish Market to name just two. It would also be nice to see John Williams' hard work at The Ritz be acknowledged with a second star.
Will any stars get taken away?
Potentially, yes. But Michelin has confirmed that England’s five three-star restaurants are safe from demotion. However, Michelin says that restaurants that have changed their concept in a bid to try and survive the pandemic, either with simplified or cheaper menus, may lose stars, although we suspect Michelin is likely to be cautious in this regard, especially when it comes to restaurants that are planning to return to their original concept when normal service resumes.
Sounds messy. Lots of restaurants have been forced to switch things up...
They certainly have. Starred places to keep an eye on include Ikoyi, which dropped its tasting menu, and Bright, which is currently serving a simple takeaway menu. It will also be interesting to see what the little red book does about Nathan Outlaw. Last year saw the chef close his two-star Restaurant Nathan Outlaw and reopen as Outlaw’s New Road, a much simpler, a la carte-only affair. Having visited recently we can confirm that standards remain as high as ever. It will therefore be interesting to see how Michelin handles the change of name and format. Another venue to watch is Josh Eggleton’s The Pony and Trap, which will soon change its name and become a ‘community interest company’ that hosts three communal dinners per week.
Any chance of a new three star?
Maybe. Two-star chefs Clare Smyth, Mark Birchall and Claude Bosi are in our view the most likely to be elevated to three-star status. If the French edition of the guide - published earlier this month - is anything to go by then Michelin looks to want to be seen as both generous and progressive. Over 50 restaurants received their first star and the French guide also gave a Michelin star to a vegan restaurant for the first time ever. Sacré bleu indeed.
Anything else to look out for?
The Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2021 will also see the use of a green clover symbol to highlight restaurants that promote ‘sustainable gastronomy’, so expect to see some greener restaurants featuring this time round.