Arguably, the three leading inspector-led guides are Michelin, The AA and The Which? Good Food Guide. Below is a weighted formula applied to the scores in those guides to discover the top 20 (twenty) restaurants in Britain. The weighting is 6 points per Michelin Star, 3 points per Good Food Guide mark and 2 points per AA Rosette as per the latest 2013 editions of the guides.
1. Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire. 3 Michelin Stars, 10/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 58
2. Gordon Ramsay, London. 3 Michelin Stars 9/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 53
3. L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria. 2 Michelin Star, 10/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 52
4. Sat Baines, Nottingham, Notts. 2 Michelin Stars 9/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 49
5. Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London. 3 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 3 AA Rosettes. Points 48
6. Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire. 3 Michelin Stars 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 47
7. Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxford, Oxon. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide 5 AA Rosettes. Points 46
7. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 46
7. Hibiscus, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 46
10. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Rock, Cornwall. 2 Michelin Stars, 9/10 Good Food Guide, 3 AA Rosettes. Points 45
11. Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, Glos. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 44
11. The Square, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 44
11. Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 44
14. Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Bagshot, Surrey. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 43
15. Le Gavroche, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 3 AA Rosettes. Points 42
15. The Ledbury, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 3 AA Rosettes. Points 42
17. Midsummer House, Cambridge, Cambs. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 41
17. Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Auchterarder. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 41
17. Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 41
17. Pollen Street Social, Mayfair, London. 1 Michelin Star, 9/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 41
People’s fascination with ranked lists of restaurants seemed to take off around a decade ago with the launch of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Now such a practice is common place with The Sunday Times, Harden’s, Zagat, Trip Advisor, Elite Traveler Magazine amongst others all producing lists, some with ranking scores. The practice has extended to Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor of The Good Food Guide, who started championing a top 50 restaurant list each year with the launch of the guide.
An interesting point of departure is how these scores and lists are produced. Some pride themselves on being purely reader feedback such as The Sunday Times/Harden’s bi-annual list, Zagat and likewise the Trip Advisor Awards for restaurants. Harden’s add an element of sophistication to the Sunday Times compilation by scoring those establishments across a number of factors such as food, service and ambience as well as factoring in a value for money ‘in category’ element. Zagat, now owned by google, is largely free to access for google+ subscribers and shows marks out of 30 for food, service and decor. This guide too is purely reader feedback but with the fact that every google search for a restaurant will provide the Zagat score on the right hand side of the screen means we should expect this guide to become increasingly powerful across Europe. As Trip Advisor quietly moved from the hotel feedback rating business into restaurants it quickly gained momentum as a yardstick of a restaurants success, to the point where software systems can incorporate the Trip Advisor score into incentive schemes for staff (Hotel’s with restaurants currently). As with all purely reader feedback systems the element of ‘did they actually eat there’, ‘do they have an axe to grind’ or even ‘do they know what they’re talking about’ will always come into play.
The latest version of 50 Best Restaurants list is due out later in April and has certainly been successful in promoting the elite restaurant category in the media. The hoopla extends through twitter to the broadsheet and television media which can only be a good thing for the profile of top end restaurant dining on a global level. This list has gathered significant momentum since its inception and has become considerably more sophisticated in its production. The question will remain with global lists that are produced by “panel” is who has visited enough restaurants outside of their own “region” to make a reasoned judgement about the relative merits of the better restaurants on the planet. There’s even a limit to how many of these Andy Hayler can visit in a 12-18 month period.
The Top 20 Restaurants in Britain 2013 List above has been derived from guides that focus purely on the food on a plate where restaurants are benchmarked for quality of the food end product by teams of anonymous inspectors. This process attempts to make the objective out of a subjective business but nonetheless the enduring popularity of these guides is testament to the industry and consumer respect for their output. Michelin, Which? Good Food Guide and The AA Restaurant Guide have all been going for a long time and remain point in time paperback publications (for now). In the web/twitter age the pressure must be mounting on these guides to go exclusively on-line and make real time updates of their awards.