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.
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.
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!