November 2012: Fine Dining Guide November Newsletter

Posted on: November 7th, 2012 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Much to report after a busy second half of the year!  The site maintained a focus on restaurant and hotel reviews supplemented with feature articles 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. (Thanks to Pro Motion Media).

The site has conducted four interviews since the last newsletter spanning three chefs and the editor of Michelin GB&I, Rebecca Burr.

Interviews in Second Half 2012

With experience at The Orrery, The Oak Room Marco Pierre White and The Lanesborough, Phil Thompson has subsequently spent ten years at Auberge du Lac in Welwyn.  Phil gives an insight into his background, motivation and cooking philosophies in an in-depth interview.

Rebecca Burr has completed her second year as editor of the four Michelin Guides – Michelin Great Britain & Ireland 2013 (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.

A former key player in the burgeoning Ramsay empire of the 2000s, Jason Atherton took the plunge of leaving the stable at Maze and going solo with Pollen Street Social – the move has proved a great success as the accolades continue to pour in – Jason speaks about his kitchen ideas and the challenges of making the most of television media potential.

Sonny’s Kitchen is the latest incarnation of Sonny’s – a long time Barnes stalwart owned by Rebecca Mascarenhas – here business partners Phil Howard and Rebecca discuss their excitement at the re-launch.

Twitter/Facebook: Both continue to deliver good traffic to the site – @finediningguide has over 4050 followers in November 2012 and the newer facebook page 523 likes.  The new template designs for facebook and twitter (header)  gets a thumbs up from fine-dining-guide.  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.

Restaurant/Hotel Reviews: Reviews by Daniel Darwood have included North Road, Artichoke, Gilpin Lodge (Hotel & Restaurant), White Oak, Holbeck Ghyll (Hotel & Restaurant), Linthwaite House (Hotel & Restaurant), The Half Moon, Allium, Lucknam Park (Hotel & Restaurant) and Auberge du Lac (See Reviews)

Guides: We’ve just been through the GB Guide season as applicable to fine-dining-guide.  The Michelin Guide GB&I 2013 was leaked a week early with exciting news for Michael Wignall at the Latymer (See interview, review), L’Enclume (See review) and Sketch (See Pierre Gagnaire Interview, review) all being promoted to two Michelin Stars.  At the same time L’Enclume was elevated to the lofty 10/10 in The Which? Good Food Guide 2013 following in the illustrious footsteps of Chez Nico, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck. Sat Bains, Jason Atherton and Nathan Outlaw all recording impressive 9/10 scores, while Claude Bosi (See interview) gained the maximum 5 AA Rosettes in the 2013 AA Restaurant Guide.

Now that the number of Michelin Two Star restaurants in GB&I is twenty strong, how about a promotion to three stars for the 2014 guide?  Some way off at present but fine dining guide is tipping The Ledbury (See Brett Graham interview) to make that step up!

Opinion/News: Diversity is the order of the day in 2012 –  in every sense – from street food to pop ups, from ethnic cuisines to new classical french, from foraging to ‘food technologies’, from local to global, from formality to informality, from single concept dining to big menus.  We have every kind of choice available to us as consumers. The number of new ventures appears to outstrip the closures too, even in these difficult economic times.

Just a couple of years ago you could hardly visit a French (based or inspired) style top end fine dining restaurant without encountering foams, jellies and an array of chemical products.  Perhaps a natural extension of chefs exploring their signatures with the aid of ‘the new technologies of food’ combined with the legacy of the great impact made by Heston Blumenthal since the late 1990s.

Within the stove of offerings, foams, jellies and chemical products are still to be found but they are less pervasive –  So too with the concept of foraging or the appearance of obscure ingredients (which Andy Hayler describes as the ‘Sea Buckthorn’ factor or ‘delicate leaves applied with tweezers’)

Perhaps there’s truth in the saying that all things go in cycles.  The 2013 Sunday Times Top 200 Restaurants in Britain (Harden’s Based), the Zagat Guide 2013 and indeed the increasingly top end restaurant relevant Trip Advisor have been busy dishing out accolades to the more classical French based restaurants like Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Gidleigh Park, The Waterside Inn, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Le Gavroche, The Square, Pollen Street Social and so on.  In addition, Pierre Koffmann and Phil Howard both recently received prestigious ‘Chef’s Chef’ Awards.  These ‘new-classical-led’ restaurants are also constantly full with waiting lists.

Perhaps symbolic to this potential shift in the French-led category of fine dining is The Ledbury, which continues to accrue awards like hot dinners while treading a path perfectly across the trends – not too classical, not too cerebral, not too foraging, not too complicated but not too simple, and they too are always full.  This might also explain why they score heavily with both reader-led guides (Trip Advisor, Zagat, Hardens) and inspector-led guides (Michelin, Which? AA).

There will always be those that do what they do just so darn well that they succeed amongst any tidal ebbs and flows such as L’Enclume, Sat Bains or Hibiscus.  In general, a fascinating time in the market, a state of flux, and not just in terms of diversity of choice but tellingly in terms of cycles of taste amongst the great British dining public.