Thursday 31 July 2008


I have often pondered on the Michelin rating system. Wondered if it is possible for the same dish to be discernibly different from a 1 star place to a 2, and so on.

Part of my cynicism is that having been to one 2 star, and a couple of 3 star restaurants and I have left these places wondering if I missed something. I think fellow foodie's refer to it as the emperor's clothes effect. All hype no substance.
However, I have come up with my own barometer to try and make sense of the guide from across the water, and this is how I think it goes. (*indicates 1 star already)

One star to me would be
La Trompette*
Michael Caines at Abode
Hotel Du Vin
No 1 at Balmoral*

And controversially, Alkimia* (which has one star), would not even make my list, purely for that fact I did not like the meal as a whole and have not desire to return, whilst in no way doubting the technical skill and imagination that was shown in the execution of said meal.

Glenapp sits somewhere between these two.

Two stars to me would include
Martin Wishart*
The Square* both of which currently have one but aiming for two.

The exception here is Andrew Fairlie** at Gleneagles which actually has two stars. We went last year and I left feeling that the Chef was not in the kitchen, if you know what I mean.

So then what would be my 3 stars?

Those that actually have 3 star ala Michelin include RHR***, Per Se***, Le Bernardin*** and Can Fabes***

At all but Le Bernardin we have had the tasting menu, and at all but Le Bernardin I have left a little underwhelmed. Yes even Per Se. Is Le Bernardin then my 3 star benchmark? I dunno, but no where else at that price has made me want to go back. No where else can make me drool at the thought of a starter like the Le Bernardin Kanpachi Tartare Topped with Wasabi Tobiko; Ginger-Coriander Emulsion..Yum Yum

The food is exquisite at Le Bernardin, and for an entirely fish orientated meal still remains one of my favourites in New York. So much so, that it is the only place that has made the list three years in a row, and this year a fourth. But it is also maybe due to fact we sit at the bar, despite having a table, and have struck up a relationship with the friendly barman who makes great cocktails. Some people criticise it for being seafood orientated, other people have criticise it for being staid, maybe they too should sit at the bar. Maybe it means even more, that, without all the pomp and circumstance, without the fleet of waitstaff, the food stands out to me on it's own merits.

So, thus far no 3 star has seemed worth it, bar Le Bernardin, but would it if we did the tasting menu? I am unlikely to find out as what we do there, already hits the spot. Maybe it is that I am just a 2 star kind girl or maybe it is that food can only be so good and that what you pay for in a 3 star is the service, the location and the hype. Maybe it is that food, the eating of it and pleasure experienced is a very subjective one, and that guides such as the Michelin are not for everyone and maybe not for me.

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