Newsletter: fine dining guide March 2014

Posted on: March 15th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Much to report after a busy 2013 and first quarter of 2014.  The site maintained a focus on restaurant and hotel reviews supplemented with feature articles, interviews and broad guide coverage.

The iTunes podcast series continues – 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.  fine-dining-guide continues to have a YouTube Channel for which the site commissioned and uploaded a professional piece on Diego Masciaga of The Waterside Inn preparing the special dish of Canard a la Presse.

The site has conducted eight interviews since the last newsletter spanning three chefs, four guide editors (sort of) and a hotel general manager.


With twelve years (no less) experience at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Sue Williams enjoyed her first Hotel General Manager role at Bath Priory.  After further work with the Brownsword family, Sue is now well ensconced after 18 months at Cliveden House.

Having worked with Nico Ladenis, Guy Savoy and the Galvin Borthers,  André Garrett now finds his name above the door at Cliveden House, one of the most iconic country house hotels in Britain.

Arnaud Bignon is producing some extraordinary food at The Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair, London.  Recently recognized with two Michelin stars for the second time in his career he spoke candidly to the site about his philosophies and influences.

Michael Ellis quietly took the international helm of the Michelin Guides from Jean-Luc Naret a couple of years ago.  In what is perhaps a European web first, Michael gives an in-depth interview with fine dining guide.

Rebecca Burr has completed her third year as editor of the four Michelin Guides – Michelin Great Britain & Ireland 2014 (Red Guide), Michelin Main Cities of Europe, Michelin London Guide and Michelin Eating out in Pubs.  Rebecca speaks of her observations of the industry as well as the workings of the guides.


Daniel Clifford is one of those rare breed of Michelin two star chefs who collectively exhibit the on-going passion to succeed while encouraging those around them to learn and grow.  Daniel has successfully spawned three Michelin starred chefs from his kitchen at Midsummer House – a restaurant which continues to gain plaudits and recognition.

Simon Numphud has been an employee of The AA for over fifteen years.  He worked his way through from junior inspector, to senior inspector, through management to head up, for the last six years, Hotel Services.  Here he gives a candid interview to Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide about The AA Restaurant Guide.

The Good Food Guide was founded by Raymond Postgate in 1951; during the last 63 years there have been only seven editors.  Elizabeth Carter is in her eighth year as editor and found time to speak about her insights into restaurant dining around the country.

Twitter/Facebook: Both continue to deliver good traffic to the site – @finediningguide has over 5400 followers in March 2014 and the newer facebook page 700 likes.  You may go directly to the site’s pages on twitter or facebook simply by clicking on the ‘f’ and ‘t’ buttons in the top right corner of every page on the site.  As we go to press the site is investigating Pinterest and Instagram as platforms to spread the visual word about fine food.

Restaurant/Hotel Reviews: Reviews by Daniel Darwood have included Midsummer House, Waterside Inn, The Vineyard, Brasserie Chavot, The Savoy, Alimentum and Bar Boulud.   (See Reviews)

Guides: The GB Guide season took place during September 2013 (as applicable to fine-dining-guide).  Relais & Chateaux elected a new president – France based Philippe Gombert stepped into the shoes of Jaume Tapies from the last quarter of 2013.  This guide is well respected in the hotel community and amongst travelers in equal measure.  Marketing of the association has progressively improved over the last decade with the apparent profile steadily on the rise.  The ‘gold standard’ of Michelin Guide GB&I 2014 was eagerly anticipated with some buzz about the possibility of a new Michelin three star in GB.  However two restaurants – Dinner by Heston and The Greenhouse both found promotion to two Michelin stars.  L’Enclume retained the lofty 10/10 in The Good Food Guide 2014 (the Guide having been acquired by Waitrose!) following in the illustrious footsteps of Chez Nico, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck.  Simon Rogan’s latest plans to open at Claridges became public which could prove the big news story of 2014.  Sat Bains, Jason Atherton, Gordon Ramsay and Nathan Outlaw all recorded impressive 9/10 scores, while Daniel Clifford and Michael Caines gained the maximum 5 AA Rosettes in the 2014 AA Restaurant Guide.

Opinion/News: As the economic seasons move through their cycle let us hope that in March 2014 we are entering spring in more ways than one.  Without doubt, during the seven year economic winter experienced in Britain, the restaurant space bucked the trend to the extent that peoples’ tastes and needs witnessed a cultural shift.  The idea of eating out for a significant band of consumers went from being a rarely sought luxury to a way of life.  I am not merely referring to the content of fine dining guide, where there is an accent on the top end, but across the restaurant world the make-up of the customer has changed.  What do these customers want?  Relaxed accessibility it would seem and pervasively so (right through to the top end).  Having said this, the institutions tend to survive the fashions and fads of a shift within a cycle; in other words there will remain a market for front of house wearing ties while taking the trouble to describe dishes at tables that still have table cloths.

The ‘Michelin market’ will remain.  While some commentators question the relevance of the inspector-led guides in the reader-led web based information age, there remains room for all in this diverse market place.  While chefs still aspire to the credible career benchmarks on offer, while consumers still hold their ratings in high regard, then this market will remain.  The only concession required from the inspector-led guides will be real time awards provided to the web as consumer thirst and hunger for new information in this era is near insatiable.

Google, having purchased Zagat, will be pushing to see Google+ challenge Trip Advisor for its coveted position in the reader-led guides category.  When you type in a well known London Hotel or restaurant into google, for example, a picture appears of the establishment along with various details including number of reviews and review score.  As Google link their products together into a cohesive offering they will seek to dominate the review market.

Until next time Happy Eating!!