The Michelin Guide for Great Britain & Ireland 2009 has somehow been leaked onto the internet (thanks to David Goodfellow which gave me the heads-up). So without further delay and any more rambling, I present you with the list of starred restaurants in London. (Note: Michelin have since confirmed the leaked information to be true)
Pied à Terre
The Capital Restaurant
Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley (formerly Petrus)
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester [Rising 3 stars]
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
* (divided by cuisine):
Ambassade de L’ile
Gordon Ramsay at Claridges
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
the Ledbury [Rising 2 Stars]
Sketch (the Lecture Room & Library)
Tom Aikens [Rising 2 Stars]
Rhodes Twenty Four
Richard Corrigan at Lindsay House
Rasoi Vineet Bhatia
Nobu (at the Metropolitan)
Nobu Berkeley St
(Note: Restaurants noted in bold are new additions)
The following restaurants were demoted a star:
1 Lombard Street (Restaurant)
I wish to talk about a few restaurants in particular. There is no change at the Three Star level – Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road successfully (and some might say very fortunately) retaining its status as the only restaurant in London holding the full monty. Its status as a three star restaurant has always garnered much debate for a restaurant which does not even bake their own bread and some even argue does not produce the best food in London.
The Two Star level sees 3 newcomers – the much maligned Alain Duccasse at the Dorchester, Hibiscus and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
Hibiscus regaining is 2 star status was expected by many. Claude Bosi’s cooking is fun, inventive and exciting. My meal back in October reflected this with very solid starters, mains and desserts although his quirky sense of experimentation seen with his amuse bouche and pre-desserts were not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, I do think that it is a very deserving 2 star recipient, but only just.
The other two are worthy of a mention because their selection are VERY controversial. According to fellow food enthusiast, Foodsnob who visited Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester recently (after much taunting and waving of the 20% top table offer), the food here is 1 star, verging on two, although this is slightly helped by the room and service which is 3 stars. However, the fact that it has been earmarked for a 3rd star (espoir) baffles both of us, in a ‘you must be taking the piss’ kind of way.
Far from deserving, in my opinion is Joël Robuchon‘s eatery. I visited the restaurant in December and I thought that the food itself is barely deserving of one star let alone two. The service was slow and sloppy and ingredients in dishes were cheap. Perhaps I caught the restaurant on a bad day, but given the astronomical prices, I am not rushing back to give this restaurant another shot, especially when there are many other interesting places I have yet to try.
Being the cynical person that I am, I suspect that Ducasse and Robuchon getting another star, as well as Ramsay retaining his 3rd, is simply down to Michelin sucking up to celebrity chefs. Either that, or there is a formula which these chefs are aware off and they can get away doing the bare minimum while still checking all the boxes.
The One Star level welcomes St. John, Ambassade de L’Ile, Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, Murano, Kai, Semplice and L’Autre Pied. Chapter One at Locksbottom also regained its star.
It seems St. John”s inclusion as a Michelin star restaurant is more of a novelty gesture to acknowledge its significance towards British cooking. This is similar to Yung Kee in Hong Kong, which I feel is far from deserving of its Michelin star, but is probably there because of its popularity. The cooking at St. John’s has never been spectacular.
I am pretty surprised to see both Ambassade de L’Ile and Hélène Darroze only receiving one star. I have visited the former and found the cooking to be of very high quality. This could be down to their service which lacks the polish of other 2* establishments I have visited, but judging on cooking alone, the lone star does it a huge disservice. I personally think that Ambassade de L’Ile is the best restaurant in London right now. I can’t comment on Hélène Darroze as I have not had the chance to try it yet, but I have heard plenty of positive reviews from trusted sources. One would suspect, these restaurants have only been given one star, because of their relatively short opening time this year making judging tricky. This of course would be similar to Hibiscus last year (although the time span then was much shorter).
Angela Hartnett has also ‘regained’ her star with her new restaurant Murano. I am not too sure what to make of it as I have yet to try it and getting a table here seems to be quite difficult.
The fact that Kai has appeared on the list makes me doubt whether Michelin are capable of judging Chinese cuisine. The Hong Kong guide raised a lot of questions with Lung King Heen awarded 3 stars even though the restaurant itself is not one of the top rated restaurants by the locals. The cooking style at Lung King Heen fuses european ingredients and techniques with Chinese, something which is also seen at Yauatcha, Hakkasan and now Kai. I have no problems with Modern Chinese cuisine but friends of mine who have tried Kai have been pretty negative about it. Bear in mind, this is a restaurant which is charging £22 for Oyster Sauce Chicken, a cheap peasant dish my mom cooks all the time, and somehow manages to serve rubbery chicken according to my friend.
I also visited L’Autre Pied recently and found the food to be hit and miss. At its best, the food was a joy to eat – clean, simple flavours utilizing classical cooking. Ingredients here were of high quality. Yet, at times, there was the occasional slip and heavy handedness with salt. Nevertheless, I feel that these occasional lapse are understandable especially during a hectic dinner service and the cooking overall is just about deserving of the star, especially when you consider some of the other very mediocre places with a star.
Chapter One is a restaurant I am pretty familiar with since I was placed in Orpington last year. The restaurant is conveniently located directly opposite Princess Royal Hospital making it very easy for me to sneak there for a meal. I have managed three meals there in the sapce of one month and to be honest I do not think the cooking there is anywhere near as good as some of the places in London omitted for a star, such as Cambio de Tercio or even Launceston Place. The service at Chapter One was pretty trying – staff were idly chatting with each other despite us being the only table around and furiously trying to attract attention. Even worse, was the waitress blatantly lying to us about not serving tap water even though they were more than happy to offer the table next to us with tap water. This was at the end of dinner and they were probably eager to usher us off to turn tables for other customers. Perhaps it is the prices here which has attracted the Michelin men.
In terms of demotions, the defunct La Noisette and Mirabelle (re-opening sometime in 2009) were logically docked a star. Similarly, 1 Lombard Street which has received numerous complaints with regards to rude service were also demoted. Joining them are l’Escargot and Tamarind.
Feel free to post your thoughts/ opinions about the latest promotions/ demotions here.