Archive for October, 2016

Map: Britain’s Top Restaurants (2017) Editions (Jan 2017)

Posted on: October 28th, 2016 by Simon Carter

This is a map that brings together the leading restaurants of Great Britain and Ireland according to three leading inspector-led guides 2017 editions (January 2017).  Each of the Guides outlined below provide data in publicly available press releases each year, or in the case of the AA Guide through cumulative twice yearly releases.  The points of note are as follows:

* The Waitrose Good Food Guide 2017 Top 50 are included and mapped.  The number in brackets next to the GFG score is the restaurant’s position within their top 50 list.

* The AA Restaurant Guide 2017 all 4 and 5 Rosette restaurants are mapped.

*The Michelin Guide 2017 all 2 and 3 Star restaurants are mapped.

Further points of note are as follows:

*The numbering of the labels is not significant and does not reflect any ranking, it is merely for convenience.

*There are many overlaps with these three mappings such that the final number of restaurants is 75.

Click on the expand icon on the right to go into google maps and use the full screen version.  Click on the icon on the left to see the menu of restaurants and their details.  Click on each number label on the map or on the menu on the left to see the scrollable restaurant details appear on the left hand side.


Newsletter: fine dining guide October 2016

Posted on: October 18th, 2016 by Simon Carter

Much to report after a busy remainder to 2015 which has continued through 2016.  The site maintained a focus on restaurant reviews supplemented with feature articles, interviews and broad guide coverage.

The iTunes podcast series remains – as always the links are to the written transcripts, you may find the podcast series on iTunes by typing “Restaurant Dining (UK)” into the main iTunes store search box.

itunes-podcasts-restaurant fine-dining-guide continues to have a YouTube Channel for which the site commissioned and uploaded a professional piece on The Waterside Inn featuring Michel Roux Snr.

YouTUbe Channel fine dining guide

The site has conducted eight interviews since the last newsletter spanning present and past Michelin Guide editors, a restaurant director, four chefs and a leading restaurateur.


Rebecca Burr, five years on from her first fine dining guide interview,  Rebecca spoke about the new live launch event (October 3 2016) for the 2017 Michelin GB&I Guide. An editorial comment also outlines a perspective on Michelin and a review of the launch event.

Thomas Mercier has more than 10 years in Michelin firmament restaurant dining rooms in the UK under his belt and shares some stories about his front of house exploits and philosophies.

Phil Howard is an iconic chef’s chef who has enjoyed 25 years at the top of the industry, now he plans to wear his chef’s whites at a new venture; Elystan Street restaurant. Article also includes an editorial comment on the state of play in top end restaurant styles.

Matt Worswick is formerly of Le Champignon Sauvage where he learned so much from mentor David Everitt-Matthias; Matt has gone on to earn his first Michelin star before moving to The Latymer at Pennyhill Park to develop his exciting brand of cooking.

Tom Sellers is something of a trail blazer in the modern chef world with a bold social media presence to match his extroardinary cooking. Restaurant Story is his focus but here he also talks about Restaurant Ours and his first book A Kind of Love Story.

Claude Bosi gives a full question and answer profile of his distinguished career to date as Hibiscus celebrated 15 years of operation across London and Ludlow.

Camellia Panjabi offers a full profile of Camillia’s distinguished career, rising through the corporate ranks in India to joining a formidable top end family run restaurateur team in London.

Derek Brown enjoyed a long and distinguished career at Michelin, where he took on executive responsibilities including Director of Michelin Red Guides (2000 to 2004), the first non-French holder of such a position. Derek speaks openly about his career, experiences and observations.

Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: The three social networking platforms continue to deliver good traffic to the site but also offer a shift to providing focus for photo logs, video logs along with a general news feed.  Indeed more and more unique content is appearing on these platforms as they offer a digital web presence for ‘fine dining guide’ in their own right – Facebook has over 2180 likes, Twitter enjoys over 7,190 followers and Instagram 665 followers. Each may be found using the handle @finediningguide.

Facebook and Twitter have progressively introduced more detailed analytical data about the performance of entries/tweets as well as the overall page/feed.  This proves very useful in tracking which information is considered most valuable to an audience and tailoring entries accordingly.


Apart from the analytics developments, two other aspects of note regarding Social Media:-

1) The new ‘Moments‘ feature in Twitter allows groups of tweets to be brought together under a common heading – these may be a collection of your own or other people’s tweets.  For example, fine dining guide used this feature to produce a ‘Guides Season 2017′ Moment and a “Memories of The Waterside Inn’ Moment.  This allows people to follow a kind of story about activity in a neatly top and and tailed way.  Instagram have introduced a similar-ish cut down version called ‘Story’

2) The length of video supported and editing facilities both on Twitter and Instagram have improved to rival Facebook as platforms of choice for multi-media.  Facebook itself is rivaling YouTube as a stand out video platform. fine dining guide has produced a number of one minute videos which have garnered a deal of success across the three platforms along with the longer videos found on YouTube.


A Twitter ‘Moment’ (Above left) and (Right) one such one minute video on facebook which reached 98,000 people via 223 shares and completed 38,000 views.

Restaurant/Hotel Reviews: Reviews by Daniel Darwood have included numerous visits to venues from Edinburgh to the Lake District as well as around London and the home counties…  (See Reviews)

Guides: The 2017 GB Guide season took place during September 2016 (as applicable to fine-dining-guide). The ‘gold standard’ of Michelin Guide GB&I 2017 was eagerly anticipated with some buzz about the possibility of a new Michelin three star in GB&I.  In the event, one restaurant – The Raby Hunt – was promoted to two stars. The Fat Duck regained three stars after a one year hiatus, but otherwise no other new two or three star restaurants were awarded. Click on the map below to visit google maps and Telegraph Travel’s mapping of all Michelin Stars awarded in GB&I 2017.


L’Enclume retained the lofty 10/10 in The Waitrose Good Food Guide 2017 and was joined by Restaurant Nathan Outlaw (10/10). These followed in the illustrious footsteps of Chez Nico, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck in achieving maximum marks. There were some new 5 AA Rosettes gained in the AA Restaurant Guide 2017 which included Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Casamia Restaurant, Restaurant Story and Pollen Street Social.  The new 4 AA Rosettes were; The Whitebrook, Winteringham Fields, Number One The Balmoral, Hampton Manor, Paul Ainsworth at No 6 as well as The good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year – Orwells near Henley-on-Thames.  The year has seen a state of flux at The AA as Simon Numphud moved onto pastures new and his successor Peter Laigaard Jensen left after just four months in the lead role. Giovanna Grossi, a Hotel Services Group Area Manager at The AA, who was leaving after 17 years with the company was subsequently offered the opportunity to return in a newly created part-time role.

Top Restaurants

While still awaiting the January review of awards by the AA but with all three main guides for 2017 published, fine dining guide have updated the ‘Top 100’ feature that lists top restaurants in London, Scotland and Wales based on a formula applied to leading guides to give an FDG score per restaurant.  There is an associated Top 25 Restaurant in Britain 2017 feature.

Opinion/News: In the modern age the typical restaurant is becoming more and more relaxed, accessible and informal – but more than this – a form of social meeting place where you happen to have something to eat.  This trend is affecting every level of the industry, to the point where restaurants toward the top end are having to introduce more and more value add to the customer to keep the business running successfully.  This may be the chef coming out to introduce dishes with the occasional dry ice flourish (as with Matt Worswick at Pennyhill Park) or installing courses in a botanical gin room, a larder and a cellar as part of the tasting menu journey (in plan at Stovells) or the whole journey-instead-of-a-menu set up at The Fat Duck!

The idea of a top chef running a restaurant as a vent for his creativity in a menu-led, formal, temple of gastronomy is all but over.  Indeed, good old fashioned world class food, service and hospitality all now take on different meanings.  The long standing ‘service un-matched’ of The Waterside Inn was actually – from the club effect warmth of welcome to the theatrical service and hospitality – years ahead of its time in delivering a particular type of value add to the food offering.  So even the perceived ‘traditional’ in this case was actually prescient of the future needs of customers’ requirements.  Interviewing the iconic chef’s chef Phil Howard brought this train of thought to mind – the difference between his and Tom Aikens’ set up at the same venue is one eye opener and the difference between Elystan Street and The Square opens the other.  Phil Howard’s situation is somewhat different, as his new venture is in a completely different neighbourhood to his last, bringing with it a completely different set of needs. The observation of the social meeting place (with value-add to the customer) trend remains the same.

Not sure if it was fine dining guide’s imagination but the three Gudies – Michelin, Waitrose Good Food Guide and AA Restaurant Guide – all launched to more hoopla than usual.  While The Good Food Guide had a fairly low key lunch in London, they published a rumoured 100,000 copies and their press release went exceptionally hot on launch day. The AA awarded no less than four new 5 Rosette restaurants and Michelin produced a live launch event that was broadcast simultaneously over the web.  Michelin teamed up with sponsors for two new awards as well as a team of sponsors for the launch event.  Presumably this commercial move was initiated to protect the resources at Michelin in the digital age (during the move from print media) and thereby defend their quality, integrity and leadership position. This year at least, it appeared to work well and a strong turn out of chefs came to support the Michelin launch process.  We await with interest the actions of the guides to maintain their positions in the ever more dynamic world of top end restaurants and their demanding customer bases.

Until next time Happy Eating!

Britain’s Top Twenty-Five (25) Restaurants 2017 Guides (Jan 2017)

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by Simon Carter


Below is a formula applied to the scores in leading guides to discover the top 25 (twenty-five) restaurants in Britain. This is up-to-date as at October 2016 – post publication of the September editions (2017) of leading guides.

1) The Fat Duck, Bray.  FDG Points 55

2) L’Enclume, Cartmel.  FDG Points 52

3) Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London. FDG Points 50

3) Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall. FDG Points 50

5) The Waterside Inn, Bray. FDG Points 47

5) Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham. FDG Points 47

7) Marcus, London. FDG Points 46.

7) Midsummer House, Cambridge. FDG Points 46.

9) Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London. FDG Points 45.

10) Le Gavroche, London. FDG Points 44.

10) Ledbury, London. FDG Points 44.

10) Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Auchterarder. FDG Points 44.

10) Whatley Manor, Malmesbury. FDG Points 44.

10) Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham. FDG Points 44.

15) Pollen Street Social, London. FDG Points 43.

15) Sketch Lecture Room and Library, London. FDG Points 43

15) Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon. FDG Points 43

15) Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxon. FDG Points 43

19) The Greenhouse, London. FDG Points 41

20) Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London. FDG Points 39

21) Fera at Claridges, London. FDG Points 38

22) Helene Darroze at the Connaught, London. FDG Points 37

22) Restaurant Story, Bermondsey. FDG Points 37

22) The Kitchin, Edinburgh. FDG Points 37

22) Casamia, Bristol. FDG Points 37

Interview: Michelin, Rebecca Burr. Editorial: Launch 2017 (Oct 2016)

Posted on: October 13th, 2016 by Simon Carter

michelinguide2017coverInterview with Michelin Guide GB&I 2017 Editor, Rebecca Burr, conducted by Simon Carter on October 3rd 2017 at IET, Savoy Place. Fine Dining Guide Editorial comment on the launch event and guide content.

Congratulations on Michelin GB&I delivering a first live launch event!

We’re delighted to have delivered a first live launch event, there’s certainly a lot to maneuver, a first time in GB&I so everything is new, sometimes challenging but exciting in equal measures. Such events have proven successful in many of the other geographies, primarily in Asia, and certainly in Spain and Germany. It is year one for us and from what I saw it went well.

What were the logistics like?

Logistically events like this are challenging, it is not a Michelin Guide event without chefs so we are extremely grateful for the sacrifices many chefs have made in travelling to London, some at very short notice, and some quite long journeys, to participate in this event.

Tell us about the two new sponsored awards?

There has always naturally been an attraction to the Michelin Guide for potential sponsors due to the strong reputation, fierce independence, unerring commitment to quality and the representation of a certain lifestyle. The commercial arm of the company have teamed up with some very professional people to deliver two awards this year where the recipients have been determined by our team of inspectors.

The Michelin Female Chef 2017 award winner is a reflection of Clare Smyth’s dedication to maintaining (and ever evolving) the standards of a Michelin three star address at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. In terms of The Michelin Service and Welcome Award 2017 the inspection team felt Peel’s at Hampton Manor (also in receipt of their first Michelin star) was the right 2017 recipient of this award.

Hampton Manor is essentially a business hotel located not too far from Birmingham airport with many corporate events going on, the restaurant offering has been thoughtfully and carefully tweaked to reflect the scope of their customer base and Michelin were happy to recognize their achievements is getting every aspect of service and welcome right for their customers.

How do you see the current industry trends?

In terms of state of play and trends in the industry, to demonstrate by examples, when (as a team) we looked at the candidates for a Michelin star we found a clear and broad variety of restaurant that reflected the diversity of the modern market place: From Veeraswamy to The Ritz through to Ellory and The Ninth. This was nothing contrived, it was purely about the natural flow of a decision making process determined by strict criteria. I mention these purely to reflect how vibrant and diverse the dining scene is around the country.

Was it a big decision to award The Fat Duck a regained three Michelin stars?

We thought it was a completely right decision to reintroduce the Fat Duck at three stars for the 2017 Michelin GB&I Guide. We knew when the restaurant closed that The Fat Duck had plans for changes, evolutions and developments in the offering so we felt to be true to our principles it was right not to include the restaurant in the Michelin Guide 2016. However, having reviewed the situation rigorously and most carefully, it was completely the right decision to re-instate the three stars for Michelin Guide GB&I 2017.

The Michelin GB&I on twitter is widely talked about, what is your thinking there..

In terms of the social media: The Michelin Guide is produced once a year and while we are already working on the new guide, an idea of where we are visiting plus occasional opinions may be found on twitter. The concept of posting some pictures and making a descriptive comment on where we have visited is a useful standard in so far as it goes. Michelin are a little bolder in that occasionally we offer a value added statement that reflects the opinion of the inspector. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are careful in its application.

The decision is simple, to back ourselves in our expertise of the opinion! As you might expect, sometimes we find restaurants deliver very good food and other times the results are not always perfect. In terms of the latter we follow rules to be careful and sensitive, we are not here to tabloid sensationalize, neither to name and shame nor in any way to make a chef who has put in a 16 hour working shift, feel he is looking up the Michelin twitter page to see which chef has been knocked by Michelin.

Having said this, Michelin do believe in carefully reflecting important information that is not always rosy, for example, an ingredient combination may not work, or where a restaurant may have missed something at check-in. At the same time there’s plenty of good news opinions to reflect: A fellow table commenting that a restaurant is worthy of a star, which from the meal eaten could be confirmed (Gilpin) or beautifully constructed dishes using the best of ingredients.

Overall the Michelin GB&I twitter has proven very popular with chefs and readers as well as useful for disseminating information to a broadly interested audience. This will continue.


Fine Dining Guide Comment: Siân Jones hosted the first ever live launch event for the Michelin GB&I Guide 2017. The event took place on October 3rd 2016 in the auditorium of IET (Institute of Engineering Technology) in Savoy Place, London.   Siân handed over to key Michelin executives during the ceremony: Claire Dorland-Clauzel, Executive Board Member of the Michelin Group (very senior indeed!) and Michael Ellis, International Director of the Michelin Guides (Executive to the lead (Managing) Guide editors across geographies – Europe, Asia and Americas).

Michael Ellis started proceedings with an effortless, understated delivery, which seemed completely in keeping with the image of Michelin to industry watchers. This was no surprise, having interviewed Mr Ellis the primary impression of intelligent and professionally clear, articulate communication was confirmed.

So having initially spoken briefly about the mantra of consistency, including consistency in the ‘value’ of a star worldwide (much debated by GB&I starred chefs who travel the world dining) and also of the importance of the Guide in reflecting new dining trends back to readers.

From time to time, handing back and forth with Siân Jones, who possibly displayed a more – as Siân’s website may suggest – ‘motivational’ approach was perhaps more enthusiastic than required for this type of event while still managing a fair job.

The invitation only audience was made up of representatives from the pool of accepted invites, which had been extended to all the one star restaurants in London, all of the GB&I two and three star restaurants plus some restaurants that would be awarded stars during the event. There was also a gathering of press at the back of the auditorium. The event was filmed and screened live over the web via

Two sponsored awards were given, each with an introduction by an executive of the sponsor – Michelin Female Chef 2017 (Veuve Clicquot) and Michelin Service and Welcome Award 2017 (Nespresso). Clare Smyth (MBE) and Peel’s of Hampton Manor were the respective winners

Those restaurants that retained stars in spite of a change of circumstances – new chef for instance – were celebrated – these included Michael Wignall at Gidleigh Park who retained two stars at that address having moved from The Latymer at Pennyhill Park which had also held two Michelin stars. Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck regained three stars after a one year hiatus. All the existing two stars and one stars present also retained their accolades.

Then came the new star announcements of the ceremony. Beautifully done. A plan view of a map of GB&I produced on the large video screen zoomed into a location which then transformed to the page in the Michelin Guide GB&I 2017 that gave the name and details of the newly awarded entrant. Each chef then came to the stage to receive their commemorative chef’s whites and be photographed with Michael Ellis, a large Michelin Star, and the Michelin Man in full costume.


Then came the award of a new two Michelin star to Raby Hunt, which proved a popular decision. In the absence of other new two stars nor a new three star this concluded the event.

MIchelin Event Stars 2017

Overall Bright Consultancy (contact Louise Hall) in conjunction with the Michelin PR department (contact Dave Johnson) pulled off a strong event. Logistically getting the complete set of newly starred chefs to the event at very short notice must have been very challenging. In addition for a first time event, some teething troubles were to be expected but they can take away satisfaction at the 90% that went very well.

Content wise there were always those you would dearly love to have seen awarded a star that don’t quite get there for 2017 Guide. Each year also seems to see a star deletion that you didn’t see coming. Further Michelin Guide GB&I 2017 saw only one new two star and no new three stars – may this mean that Michelin are treading a conservative line a little too much? The industry is craving good news and recognition for homegrown talent all over the region.

In reality the three news stories of the Michelin Red Guide in GB&I this side of the millennium have been the meteoric rise of The Fat Duck to three Michelin Stars, the rise of The Hand and Flowers with chef Tom Kerridge to two Michelin stars (for a pub, a GB&I unique selling point) and Alain Ducasse being awarded three Michelin stars at The Dorchester (was that actually seven guides ago?)

For a guide that helps feed the readers of the nation well, do they feed the industry they serve enough? The twitter presence is a massive positive step, very well received and cleverly implemented. Digital apps are useful and events like these help, too. The inevitability of the commercial link-ups with booking systems through to lifestyle brands must be seen as funding the resources that help to protect and retain integrity rather than challenging it!

With the on-line, dynamic and ever faster changing world, reflected through tastes and restaurant offerings changing, at an ever greater pace, what else will Michelin do to retain their forefront position? Perhaps, as ever, we’ll all wait and see with baited breath and in particular for next autumn!

Michelin Bib Gourmand: Defined and Listing 2017

Posted on: October 4th, 2016 by Simon Carter

Bib GourmandIn the unique “language” of the Michelin Guide, the Bib symbols indicate the inspectors’ favourite establishments, offering high-quality products and services and good value for the money.

For even though the Michelin Guide is known and recognised for its “star” system, these restaurants represent only 5% of the selection, the rest of which is comprised of good, small, affordably priced establishments.

Among these establishments are the “Bibs,” with the Bib Gourmand symbol for restaurants and the Bib Hotel symbol.

Bib is short for Bibendum, the character created in 1898 from the imagination of the Michelin brothers, André and Edouard, and the pen of cartoonist O’Galop. Over the years, Bib—the one and only Michelin Man—has become the Group’s “mascot.” In the Michelin Guide, Bibendum’s head is a familiar, widely recognised red symbol.

The Bib Gourmand symbol was created in 1997 so it is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It indicates a restaurant offering good food at moderate prices. For the 2017 Guide, the price of a full meal (excluding drinks) is under £28 (40 euros in the Republic of Ireland).

The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2017 includes 140 Bib Gourmands of which 24 are (N – New) Bib Gourmand restaurants, the full list is found on the Michelin supplied .PDF file link below, please skip to page 15/24 and beyond:-



Michelin Guide GB&I 2017: Press Release

Posted on: October 4th, 2016 by Simon Carter

Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2017 Reveals 20 New Michelin Stars

Michelin Guide 2017 GB&I

The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2017 is published today, October 3, priced at £16.99 (€18.99 in Ireland)

Twenty new Michelin-Starred restaurants were unveiled at the first-ever live launch of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland this morning.

The 2017 edition of the guide includes a new Two Michelin Star restaurant: Raby Hunt at Summerhouse, near Darlington, where self-taught chef James Close cooks unfussy, modern dishes.

Eighteen new One Michelin Star establishments were revealed, including two pubs: The Wild Rabbit in Oxfordshire with Tim Allen in the kitchen; and the Crown at Burchetts Green in Berkshire, run by Simon Bonwick and his family.

The Lake District has two new Michelin Stars: Forest Side and Gilpin Hotel, while Dublin has another Michelin Star in Heron & Grey.

In Wales, Sosban & The Old Butchers in Anglesey has gained a Michelin Star, as has James Sommerin in Penarth.

Rebecca Burr, Editor of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2017, said: “London’s great variety of establishments, its history, but also its dynamism and vitality are illuminated by the capital’s new Michelin Stars.

“The Ritz Restaurant and Veeraswamy, London’s oldest Indian restaurant, both receive One Michelin Star. These establishments have long and illustrious histories, but the cooking at both has never been better than it is today.

“There have been some excellent additions to the guide across both Great Britain and Ireland – restaurants that are producing consistently good food using excellent ingredients.”

Newcomers to the London dining scene awarded a Michelin Star include Ellory and The Ninth.

Establishments which have retained their Michelin Stars under new chefs include Gary Foulkes at Angler, Tom Brown at Outlaws at the Capital Hotel and Robert Potter at Bybrook Restaurant at the Manor House Hotel.

Special congratulations were given to Michael Wignall, who made a very successful move from Surrey to Devon and retained the Two Michelin Stars at Gidleigh Park.

Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck returns to the guide with Three Michelin Stars. The restaurant offers a truly memorable and visceral multi-sensory experience which is informed by a clever narrative.

Rebecca Burr said: “Our inspectors had many meals here during the course of the year and found the restaurant invigorated, rejuvenated and unquestionably worthy of being re-awarded our highest accolade.”

This edition of the guide also marks the 20th anniversary of the Bib Gourmand – Michelin’s award for good value, good quality cooking. This year the guide includes more than 140 ‘Bibs’, of which 24 are new.

Also published today is the Michelin Guide London 2017, priced at £12.99 (€14.99 in Ireland). This guide provides extended text on London’s restaurants, with photographs and information on all Michelin Starred establishments, as well as a pull-out map. It also includes a selection of London’s best hotels, across all categories of comfort.

Both guides can be purchased from bookshops and at

The first ever live launch of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland took place at IET London, Savoy Place.

Click the links below for full list of Michelin stars 2017, the 2017 bib gourmands, the 2017 additions and deletions, the complete star history outside London since 1974 and finally the complete star history of London since 1974.





Chef Interview: Phil Howard, Elystan Street (September 2016)

Posted on: October 4th, 2016 by Simon Carter

After a tremendously successful 25 years at The Square, iconic ‘chef’s chef ‘ Phil Howard and business partner Nigel Platts-Martin sold the Michelin two starred Bruton Street restaurant to Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation (MARC).

Phil Howard has relatively quickly returned to the kitchen at the old Tom Aikens’ restaurant site on Elystan Street in Chelsea. The new venture, which is named after the street it occupies, promises to deliver a combination of neighbourhood and destination restaurant to its local and traveling clientele.

Phil Howard Elystan Street

The restaurant extends Phil’s successful business partnership with Rebecca Mascarenhas, forming a restaurateur/chef team that includes the sites Kitchen W8 in Kensington and Sonny’s Kitchen in Barnes. As a strong team that understands both the food and business needs of particular markets they can rightly expect to make a success of this new venture Elystan Street.

Upon entering, the transformation of the space from it’s former guise was a clear contrast: The interior design of the 64-seat dining room featured chairs in two shades (air force blue and soft salmon), and sofa banquettes in teal leather. Tables were a mix of oak and concrete tops, and the lighting included numerous resin spun pendants. Two walls featured almost floor-to-ceiling windows with café-style curtains providing low-level privacy.

I am shown too, into the makings of the 14-seat private dining room, which featured a clever adaptable table and stools, that could be raised or lowered to suit either a dining function or for more informal canapé and drinks. The table’s steel base was topped by white Corian, and there were long tubular lights made in marble.

Two weeks prior to official opening, Phil and Rebecca found time to sit in the new dining room at Elystan Street and discuss their restaurant with Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide.

Tell us about your new project at Elystan Street?

Phil: Elstyan Street offers us very exciting and vibrant new space for a restaurant venture. The idea is to set up a restaurant which is absolutely aimed at what Rebecca Mascarenhas and I perceive the market to be in this part of London.

This is an important point because gone are the days when a restaurant, whatever its purported ‘identity’ can come into an area of London and dictate what will sustain a full restaurant of customers, at a lunch and dinner service, without due deference to the tastes of the neighbourhood.

Phil HOwardSo we have to look, listen, reflect and create menus with elements that are lighter, cleaner, perhaps more vegetarian influenced.  You might find demand for less dairy or gluten but when looking at the menu you perhaps wouldn’t notice these attributes, however some subtlety of thought has gone into that, particularly at lunch time. So to feature salads, Carpaccios, certain raw foods and so on will be items taken on board as a conscious decision, however there will also be provision along side these dishes for tastes that are looking for more ‘destination’ style food.

How does this opening compare to your days at The Square?

Looking back, an over-riding feature of top end dining in London was the significant market change over the life of The Square; tastes and offerings became more diverse as the choices customers faced became more numerous.

While at one time, The Square may have been on a top end restaurant diner’s list of five ‘proper food’ destination restaurants to visit in London, nowadays people (pleasantly) find an extraordinary mix of food types and styles to consider. It is no longer a sustainable business model to just serve a great plate food in a relaxed formal environment and hope or expect to regularly fill the restaurant. Much more thought is required on what type of identity of restaurant you are reflecting back to a given market space in your part of town.

So the market at Elystan Street is completely different, hence a different offering?

I might suggest that at lunch time in Elystan Street there are almost three distinct lunch time food requirement markets solely based on day of the week, the way people think about their food needs might vary between weekdays versus a Saturday versus a Sunday.

So Rebecca and I have thought carefully about a flexible, adaptable and accessible restaurant vision in the modern world. In this context it is also about personal job satisfaction – getting it right – delivering a quality product and making the restaurant successful at this venue. I am excited, ambitious and happy to deliver a restaurant, which is very new, which applies the disciplines of delivering consistent quality that people know me for from The Square and applying that to a modern 2016 dining concept at Elystan Street.

So these are different career goals from The Square: Still cooking! No stepping back?

The Square ticked all the career aspiration and cooking boxes for me and was a great success for a long time. Ultimately I look back on that journey with a great deal of pride and satisfaction. Achieving two Michelin stars, gaining a solid chef reputation at the top end of the industry, while cooking some serious food.

Make no mistake I am not ‘stepping back’ nor drifting off into semi-retirement, quite the opposite! I retain the desire to put on my chef’s whites but at the same time to put my ego to one side; to adapt my skills to gain complete satisfaction from the mission to prepare and deliver consistent, quality food that will fill a modern restaurant in this part of town – lunch and dinner! This is the new challenge, certainly no stepping back, but fully focused and forward looking about what I wish to achieve in the business.

Rebecca Mascarenhas: Dining out has perhaps become less about special occasion dining and about more regularly visiting restaurants that have a slightly different product offering – a relaxed warmth of welcome, in a light and airy space, while providing food that matches their high level of intelligence about what they are eating in a social meeting place – which while being a ‘grown up’ restaurant – it is not a restaurant for a restaurant’s sake.

Editor’s Comments: The theme is that a restaurant today is a home for a set of needs of target customers compared to a vent for what a high-end chef chooses to create (without regard for the market space). The latter once had a natural and strong independent restaurant market but today, people’s needs in different parts of town require more thought put into the offering to get it right.

Two fundamental facets of the great restaurants, the temples of gastronomy, was the personality of the house developed in tandem between the chef and the key personnel out front and from a food perspective the signature dishes.

What Phil Howard achieved at The Square was about more than exceptional and consistent food but the consummate front of house professionals such as John Davey, David O’Connor and Cesar Lopes who developed their own ‘club’ of returning guests; like coming home to family for a hospitable chat and a warmth of welcome combined with first rate execution of the science of service. The art of making someone feel good was a feature of The Square that became associated with the chef, too!

Perhaps the modern vision of this scenario is the guests will treat a restaurant aimed at this space as a social meeting place where the venue automatically turns into a returning guest club because the feel good factor is generated by the package of the venue itself: The right type of meeting place where they happen to eat and drink?


Phil Howard Elystan Street 2016 (left), Tom Aikens’ Restaurant 2009 (right). Same space: The shifting needs of a venue in modern top end dining!


This assertion goes too far, venue presentation is one thing, food presentation another and so this significantly understates the value and importance of Phil Howard as the chef at the venue!  To establish this only takes a matter of reviewing the dinner menu. While certain food content dinner presentations are less relevant, for example tasting menus, which are not currently offered at Phil Howard’s Elystan Street, signature dishes, which naturally take time to develop, will remain likely to be relevant and further important for business. At The Square the Michelin two star signature dishes (being those listed in the Michelin Red Guide each year) were a symbol of the cooking that gently defined the chef’s work – Langoustines, Crab or Brillat-Savarin Cheescake – which as Phil Howard says “could alone take care of business during a dinner service.”

The first impression of the dinner menu at Elystan Street is that it is born of The Square – essentially with a cleaner, lighter touch and a modern twist, but still with a Phil Howard identity. Clearly evident at dinner is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary tone for Phil at this stage of the restaurant. From these early menus signature dishes can most certainly develop and should these retain the impact that similar dishes held at The Square then this bodes well for business. This is further enhanced by the fact that even though the market is now more firmly with the social and dining requirements of the local customer there will remain a strong flow of clients traveling to Elystan Street, to once again enjoy a memory of the food they’ve always loved at The Square. So once again, a well thought out, winning recipe for the new restaurant!

Phil Howard is a truly iconic chef, and with the partnership of Rebecca Mascarenhas (and formerly Nigel Platts-Martin) builds formidable businesses. Fine dining guide will continue to follow his great career with full admiration and best of wishes for the future.