This year, four London restaurants received Bibs:
- Sorella, Robin Gill’s Clapham Italian restaurant, a reinvention of The Manor, “for its flavour-packed Italian cooking from the Amalfi region.”
- Farang, Seb Holmes’ Thai-inspired Highbury restaurant, for “a mix of Thai and British produce and ... an authentic heart.”
- Petit Pois, the French bistro on Hoxton Square, for “its lively atmosphere, endearing honesty and flavoursome, ingredient-led cooking.”
- Kudu, a South African-inflected neighbourhood restaurant in Peckham. “You’d want it as your local.”
The Bibs, like Michelin stars, are also subject to deletions. Notable deletions this year include Middle Eastern stalwart Honey & Co, Borough Market modern British restaurant and wine bar Elliot’s, Islington pub and dining room The Drapers Arms, and Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Clipstone, which only received the Bib last year. Great Queen St, Charlotte’s W5, Azou, The Canton Arms, Foley’s, and Dehesa were also dropped for 2019. Losing a Bib, of course, can also be a path to a star, and Clipstone is fancied to upgrade on Monday. Honey & Co could also be a curveball. Those deletions — and the closure of Paradise Garage, Madame D, and Legs (next week) will leave London with 41 Bib Gourmands, compared to 52 last year.
Last year, 10 London restaurants received Bibs, including Ben Chapman’s northern Thai-inspired claypot and charcoal barbecue restaurant Kiln; David Carter’s Brit-American barbecue site Smokestak; Merlin Labron-Johnson’s minimalist, modern British Clipstone; Jacob Kenedy’s Southern American-inspired gastropub, Plaquemine Lock; Indian small plate-focused Soho restaurant Kricket; pan-Italian bar in Shoreditch, Popolo; Adam Handling’s The Frog E1 in Shoreditch; Himalayan Madame D, which is now closed; modern seafood restaurant Westerns Laundry; and Vivek Singh’s Indian “market cooking” restaurant Cinnamon Bazaar.
Michelin parlance defines the Bib Gourmand-winning restaurant as one that delivers “simple yet skilful cooking and great prices.” The Bib Gourmands are, plainly, second-tier awards to Michelin stars — last year’s awards made clear that while the guide is willing to recognise the existence of the kind of regionally specific, not French, not formal, and not expensive dining that readily thrives in London, it is, thus far, not willing to award restaurants of that ilk with stars. The award of a star to A. Wong in Pimlico last year was one notable exception, most notable for being just that: one.
This year’s Bibs, for their part, are defined by a regional specificity and — for all of the vagaries of definition — the quality of being a ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant. Seb Holmes’ Farang is the second white-owned Thai-inspired restaurant to be awarded a Bib in as many years, while Sorella outdid its previous incumbent, which received a Michelin Plate.
Stay tuned for more analysis, and how this might feed into Monday’s Michelin star announcement.