This year, three London restaurants have been awarded Michelin Bib Gourmands:
- Berenjak, the Iranian restaurant in Soho run by chef Kian Samyani and backed by Michelin-magnetic JKS Restaurants, for “modern Persian cooking.” Michelin describes the restaurant as “small but perfectly formed.”
- Two Lights, the modern American restaurant in Shoreditch from the Clove Club, for “creative and playful modern American dishes [...] in lucky Shoreditch.”
- Bancone, the popular fresh pasta counter in Covent Garden — soon to open in Soho —, for “freshly made pasta at great prices.” As predicted, after Michelin’s crowdsourced photos from the restaurant on Instagram.
Michelin parlance defines the Bib Gourmand-winning restaurant as one that delivers “good quality, good value cooking.” It also stipulates that the restaurant will offer “£28 or under for three (yes, three!) courses.”
Although, in the purview of Michelin itself, Bib Gourmands are second-tier awards to Michelin stars — it has often been the case that more interesting cooking, by clever and dynamic operators, have fallen into this category; it tends to avoid the constraints and orthodoxies of the starred index (often fine, mostly French, nearly always expensive). The Bib category has often been characterised by Michelin’s apparent lack of courage to award a star. Notable recipients in recent years include Kiln, in Soho, Brawn, on Columbia Road, St John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields, Westerns Laundry in Highbury, and Morito, on Exmouth Market. Outstanding restaurants, which are guilty only of not subscribing to the traditional strictures set out by the guide.
This year’s Bibs are defined by two phenomena: the quality of being known to inspectors and fresh pasta, a London-centric restaurant zeitgeist: Berenjak’s owners, JKS Restaurants, is the most-starred restaurant group in the U.K., with a total of six Michelin stars across five restaurants. Two Lights is owned by The Clove Club, a restaurant awarded a star in 2014 and a fair shout for a second next week. Luca, the group’s third restaurant, is an outsider for its first star in this year’s guide.
Bancone, on the other hand, is the most refined and fancy of London’s modern crop of fresh pasta restaurants, an obvious trend that has swept the capital in the last three years. Obvious because pasta’s principal ingredients are cheap; and obvious because there are few foods, in the mainstream, that have such a clear domestic frame of reference. Pasta is one of the easiest things for restaurant goers to compare against their own cooking and therefore when, as is often the case, it is better, justifying the the cost of going out to eat it is easier. This, in turn, makes it a comparatively low-risk option for restaurants.
Those who lost Bib Gourmands in London this year are: Indian Essence in Bromley, Barrica, on Goodge Street, Picture in Marylebone and Fitzrovia (deleted, but whose owners had recently stated that it would close, anyway), Copita, the tapas bar on Soho’s D’Arblay Street, Polpetto, which closed, Magnus Reid’s Legs in Hackney, which also closed, Adam Handling’s The Frog in Hoxton (whose other Frog is tipped for a star), Comptoir Gascon, on the edge of Smithfield Market in Farringdon, Corbin and King’s Bellanger in Islington, which closed, and Bistro Union in Clapham.
Last year, four London restaurants received new Bibs: Sorella, Robin Gill’s Clapham Italian restaurant, a reinvention of The Manor; Farang, Seb Holmes’ Thai-inspired Highbury restaurant; Petit Pois, the French bistro on Hoxton Square; and Kudu, the South African neighbourhood restaurant in Peckham that has since announced it will open a second restaurant next door.
Stay tuned for more analysis, and how this might feed into Monday’s Michelin star announcement.
A full list of London restaurants with Bib Gourmands:
Upstairs (at Trinity)
St John Bread and Wine
Café Spice Namaste