London’s Michelin stars for 2019 have been distrubuted; Marcus Wareing’s flagship restaurant was demoted, and Gordon Ramsay is happy for lots of reasons; there are 71 Michelin stars in the city. Here, though, is the in-depth analysis of yesterday’s “Michelin Revelation 2019” that really matters.
Most feverish build-up
In the words of the trailer that Michelin itself produced:
HAS A BEGINNING
LUCK… HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT
Most on-brand choice of streaming platform and ensuing logistical difficulties
If only luck had been on Michelin’s side when it came to getting its showcase event up and running. The platform chosen — Facebook Live — was obviously a source of some behind the scenes complications, with the original go-live time of 16.30 pushed back 10 minutes to afford people who had been preparing for this for a full 365 days a little extra breathing room. The selection of platform also created issues for those not watching the experience on desktop, requiring them to download the Facebook app rather than being able to access it via browsers. It almost seemed fitting that the first words heard from host Amanda Stretton — as the feed suddenly went live on her making it down to the stage — were “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
Gosh, but this took a long time getting going, didn’t it? It was a full thirty-eight minutes before the first new star was awarded, with attendees and Facebook viewers having to endure host Stretton butchering the pronunciation of various French names; Michelin representative Pascal Couasnan (sorry, “Kweenan”) waffling on about the similarities between motorsport and food, and the U.K. managing director of Nespresso, Francisco Nogueira, introducing a powder-puff travel film with two-star chef Daniel Clifford that talked up the sustainability credentials of a company whose core product is a non-biodegradable plastic container. All that followed by Gordon Ramsay, going full Champions League Final John Terry in shiny chefs’ whites! As one punter in the comments observed: “we all get 1* for sitting through the build-up”.
Worst selfie, presumably
The one that Stretton took, Ellen-at-the-Oscars-style, and then failed to upload on social media as promised.
Most promising opening statement
Starting things off in Hackney rather than Westminster was encouraging enough, suggesting a fundamental acknowledgement that the spiritual home of London cookery has moved decisively east. Even more encouraging was that Shoreditch grill restaurant, Brat was the eventual recipient: in the past, this is exactly the sort of fundamentally delicious but insufficiently ‘fine dining’ place that wouldn’t have quite cut the mustard. A subsequent star for Leroy — a wine bar and restaurant, also in Shoreditch — would continue a long-overdue trend.
Most genuinely WTF second and third statements
Only the most optimistic ballot papers written in advance of the event featured both St James’s West African-inspired Ikoyi and Nieves Barragan Mohacho’s tapas bar, Sabor (or rather “Say-bor”, per Stretton). To have them follow Brat — thereby frontloading the event with slightly leftfield picks — was an assured piece of stagecraft from the world’s most infamous tyre producer, and one that suggested strides genuinely had been made since last year’s business-as-usual procession.
Fortunately for anyone worried the Red Guide had truly lost the plot, normal service resumed soon afterwards. A star for serial-Michelin-baiting pro Simon Rogan at Roganic in Marylebone was always on the cards; it duly arrived moments later.
Most expected (but also a little disappointed?)
“Game-changing” chef Ollie Dabbous’ bullish public pronouncements ahead of Hide’s opening targeted two stars from the get-go. He will doubtless be delighted that he matched the accolade awarded to his former eponymous restaurant at the first time of asking, but might he also feel that the job is only halfway done?
Most unexpected miss
The niche art of Michelin prognostication was in full swing ahead of this year’s awards. There was a suggestion that Andrew Clarke and Jackson Boxer’s St Leonards in Shoreditch might get into the guide, assuming it had opened in time for inclusion this year. Noizé seemed in with a shout, based on its highly on-brand classical / opulent vibe; Hong Kong imports Duddell’s and Serge et Le Phoque also looked likely, given their previous with Bibendum over in the country of their origin. While it was striking that none of the above gained a star, surely the biggest shocker was Mayfair’s Indian Accent being shut out entirely: not just because the mini-chain has pedigree elsewhere (a star in New York) but also because it has secured a string of rave reviews. Perhaps Telegraph critic Michael Deacon moonlights as an inspector.
Most (unfortunately) familiar story
As yet another Michelin event came to a close without The Clove Club receiving its second star, chef Isaac McHale can be forgiven for wondering what the hell he has to do to gain that elusive accolade: after all, per the industry’s other great and problematic awards body, The World’s 50 Best, he’s riding higher than ever. Then again, he’s in good company: serial World’s Best victor Noma has famously never received Michelin’s top gong.
Best-concealed bad news
The ceremony itself doesn’t concern itself with the one weapon in Michelin’s arsenal that chefs fear most: the dreaded demotions. After the event proper, we discovered Outlaw’s at the Capital, Tamarind, Jamavar, Ametsa, and Lima had all lost their single stars, with Marcus Wareing’s Marcus going from two to one. More evidence of the sea change from west to east London, certainly — and perhaps a reason why Wareing’s old sparring partner was looking especially cheery onstage.
A genuinely touching moment at the back end of the ceremony, as Core’s Clare Smyth walked up to collect two stars alongside former boss Gordon Ramsay. There was talk of the genuinely unprecedented happening, and Core going straight in with three stars — that can (maybe) wait until next year, but for now there was something actually warm and human about the sight of an ambitious chef receiving the strongest possible validation of her decision to open her own place.
“Holy shit”, or maybe “Oh, shit” was chef James Knappett’s first audible response when he walked to the stage to receive a second star for Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs. Then another warm, genuine, touching moment ensued as he waited for his wife Sandia Chang to reach the stage, before enveloping her in an embrace that spoke volumes. Emotion? Good vibes? Actual humanity? Go home, Michelin, you’re drunk.