And remember, no one pays to go into the guide.
When it comes to places to eat, we use the same principles – we’re not looking for any particular type or style of restaurant – we just want good food. We recommend over 2,200 places to eat, and they vary from local pubs to internationally acclaimed restaurants. We always pay our own bills and don’t feel it’s our place to make suggestions or give feedback to the owners or operators.
And unlike one of the scenes in the Helen Mirren movie “The One-Hundred Foot Journey” we don’t make notes surreptitiously under the table!
We’re perhaps best known for our Michelin Stars. They are awarded solely for the quality of the food. They are not for chefs and they don’t ‘belong’ to anyone – they are simply our way of alerting our readers as to where the best cooking is happening. The things we look for include the quality and compatibility of the ingredients, the technical skill and flair that goes into their preparation, the clarity and combinations of flavours and, above all else, the taste. Consistency is also hugely important which is why we have a number of meals in a restaurant before giving it a Star.
We have another less known award – the Bib Gourmand. This award is particularly popular with our readers as it highlights those establishments offering a simpler style of cuisine at affordable prices (£28 or less for three courses). We spend as much time seeking out candidates for a Bib Gourmand as we do Stars.
Our 2015 guide marks out a year of variety and contrasts. The new Stars are all so different from one another, which means our readers will hopefully find something they like.
London has always had great Indian restaurants and added to this list is now Gymkhana which has been virtually full since the day it opened. It’s owned by the same people as Trishna, which has had a star for a while. Ask for a table downstairs as it’s more atmospheric down there.
If you like Spanish food, then try Barrafina in Soho. You perch at a counter and watch the chefs as they go about their duties. Although it has been around for a few years, the cooking has simply got better and better – be prepared to wait, though, as they don’t take reservations. The good news is that they’ve recently opened a second branch.
A new generation of young chefs are beginning to make their mark in London – they’re easy to spot as most of them are enthusiastically tattooed. The seeds of the The Clove Club were sown in a series of pop-up restaurants before the three friends opened at Shoreditch Town Hall. Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs is a hidden gem, where you take a seat at a horseshoe-shaped bar and are served a modern, no-choice menu of around 12 courses.
Fera at Claridge’s is unlike any restaurant this iconic hotel has hosted in the past. There’s a purity and unforced, natural style to the cooking and the room is now more informal yet still manages to dazzle. And with a new star at City Social, Jason Atherton shows that it’s all about recruiting great talent when building up an international portfolio of top quality restaurants.
Elsewhere in the British Isles the standard of cooking keeps getting better and better. If you want to enjoy great food with wonderful landscapes then head to Scotland for Isle of Eriska and The Three Chimneys & The House Over-By. In Wales, Ynyshir Hall and the Crown at Whitebrook both regain a star.
There are three more pubs with stars which we’re very pleased about. For many chefs, buying the local pub represents a better prospect that trying to open a restaurant and many are now actively promoting regional produce and rediscovering local recipes, and are doing so in an environment where every British person feels at ease. Perhaps the most interesting new starred pub is the Treby Arms as it is owned by a former winner of MasterChef.
Stars are awarded annually, based on our first-hand experiences, so inevitably we also take Stars away. It’s not something we enjoy doing but we have to be honest with our readers. Standards go up every year and those who eat out know more about food now than they ever have. Owners of restaurants and pubs can’t afford to stand still. Mind you, in this business, standing still is something few find time to ever do.