Arguably, the three leading inspector-led guides are Michelin, The AA and Waitrose 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 2015 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 10/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 56
3) L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria. 2 Michelin Stars, 10/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 52
4) Sat Bains, Nottingham, Notts. 2 Michelin Stars 9/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 49
4) Hibiscus, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 9/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 49
6) Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London. 3 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 47
6) Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire. 3 Michelin Stars 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 47
6) Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Rock, Cornwall. 2 Michelin Stars, 9/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 47
9) Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxford, Oxon. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide 5 AA Rosettes. Points 46
9) Midsummer House, Cambridge, Cambs. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 46
11) Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, Glos. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 44
11) Le Gavroche, London. 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) Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Auchterarder. 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
16) Marcus, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 43
16) Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Bagshot, Surrey. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 5 AA Rosettes. Points 43
18) The Ledbury, London. 2 Michelin Stars, 8/10 Good Food Guide, 3 AA Rosettes. Points 42
19) Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon. 2 Michelin Stars, 7/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 41
19) Pollen Street Social, Mayfair, London. 1 Michelin Star, 9/10 Good Food Guide, 4 AA Rosettes. Points 41
The Top 20 Restaurants in Britain 2015 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, Waitrose 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/app driven and make real time updates of their awards.
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 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 list, Zagat, Google Reviews and Trip Advisor. 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 ambiance as well as factoring in a value for money ‘in category’ element.
As Trip Advisor quietly moved from the hotel feedback rating business into restaurants it quickly gained momentum as a yardstick of a restaurant’s success. 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.
With the takeover of Zagat by Google now into its maturity, we can clearly see the positioning of Zagat along with the rise of Google reviews. The graphic above of a Google search for “Le Gavroche” is revealing on many levels. The left hand side of the page shows, as of old, the Google ranking for the search criteria, naturally with the restaurant’s own web site coming out on top. However, a recent departure, is the embedded Google reviews result for Le Gavroche listing on the left hand side of the page – some proprietary Google information hijacking the Le Gavroche listing. Well perhaps one might argue that as it is the Google search result, this is merely one proprietary Google result promoting another? However should Google be seen as a de facto search standard then perhaps this is unfair competition, particularly for the likes of Trip Advisor.
In the example above Trip Advisor is languishing in third on the Google search and with no trumpets nor fanfares. By contrast, Zagat (you will notice) still gets a mention on the right hand side of the listing, where Google take the opportunity to use half the page to fanfare and trumpet their own information on Le Gavroche. For the future, the example suggests that Zagat has a shrinking role, while Google reviews a flourishing one. In spite of Trip Advisor having 12x more reviews for this restaurant, the presentation of Google results is alluring toward Google reviews, perhaps within 18 months Trip Advisor may see its role a shrinking one too!
The latest version of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is due out later in early June 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.