London — and the U.K. and Ireland — have their Michelin stars for 2022. As restaurants and chefs celebrate and commiserate, here’s how this year’s stars went down in six key takeaways.
1. (Michelin) dudes rock
The day before the stars came out, Michelin announced its “special awards” for 2022, and its three London entries went to five lads. On the day the stars came out, with exception of Bomee Ki, business partner of Woongchul Park at Sollip, every recipient was a man. After last year’s promotion of two restaurants with female head chefs — Core by Clare Smyth and Hélène Darroze at the Connaught — to three stars, this year’s brocession feels like a depressing return to type.
2. Michelin couldn’t even just tweet it out
Last year’s Michelin star revelation was weird. Having initially planned a live event with an audience, COVID-19 left Davina McCall and some poor person in a rubber suit talking to nobody — well, nobody except Gwendal Poullennec and a baying online comments section. This year, there wasn’t even a stream, just a string of tweets, but it couldn’t even get that right. Scheduled for 10 a.m., things kicked off unannounced half-an-hour early.
3. The pandemic gave restaurants at the high-end the time they needed to perfect aspects of their operation which they’d overlooked
Friend of Eater and Vittles editor Jonathan Nunn jokingly took credit for two of the promotions which coincided with him doing tea trainings. “One thing I noticed during the time restaurants were closed [in 2020-21], was that the most ambitious ones were working on nailing aspects of service which they’d never had time to stop and perfect before. Something like a tea or coffee service might seem minor, but attention to detail outside of the cooking is often the difference between one and two, and particularly two and three stars.
Did the pandemic and months of forced closure give these chefs and owners the time they’d always sought to make changes and improve things they’d never had the time nor space to even contemplate improving? We’ll likely never know, but, as the tea-spiller-in-chief said himself, “it’s an interesting coincidence.”
4. “His beef dishes, which have always been a highlight, have become even better.”
This is a verbatim quote from Michelin’s appraisal of Jeremy Chan’s cooking at Ikoyi, which it has just raised from one Michelin star to two. Assuming that this global restaurant awards body thinks that its restaurant awards are the most important in the world, said elevation is commensurate with lifting it from the third-best award, to the second. It’s quite a big deal. And the line is, “his beef dishes, which have always been a highlight, have become even better?” Perhaps it is not in the inspectors’s nature to show enthusiasm.
5. So it was weird, but not too weird...
Given its history of such shenanigans as failing to announce a star, it was fair to expect some real left-field decisions. Deleting just one London restaurant from the guide — particularly given it deleted more last year, while claiming to “support” restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic — was rogue. But it resisted the temptation to go over the top and reinstate formerly two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury, which only reopened in the last fortnight.
6. And save for the Brocession, Michelin didn’t do anything especially egregious
Few could have any complaints that the two new two-star restaurants — particularly since Kitchen Table was elevated to that plain — were anything but deserving of their promotion.
What’s more, since the publication of the 2019 guide, which included forward-thinking honours for Brat, Leroy, and Sabor, it’s fair to say Michelin has had a couple of dodgy years — three stars for Sketch in 2020 being the most perplexing decision of the last half decade — but 2022 saw a tolerable mixture of ultra Micheliny awards (Wild Honey; the Frog; Jamavar] but also some more refreshing choices, like Kol and Sollip, alongside the promotion of the Clove Club and Ikoyi.
The truth is, in London, the two-star category is now definitely interesting, certainly more interesting than the more old-fashioned, insular, and insulated three-star clique.
Til next year, Bibendum.