Michelin meals 2015 - a summary (UK)

Baslow Hall - dated. Well past its prime

Fraiche - as inventive and enjoyable as ever.

Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons - simply outstanding.

Manchester House - no, it again didnt get a star - but it should have. A travesty - we’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

Marcus - a lack of 2* WOW

Northcote - so good we went twice

Nut Tree - disappointing. Not really even “good pub grub”

Simon Radley - back on our list after a really good meal

Star at Harome - the promise fulfilled

Trishna - oh, yeah, that was delish

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Thanks for sharing Harters. For me:

Paul Ainsworth No 6 - Prices have gone up sharply in the 6 years since I last visited, but the food was still very good

Trishna - Very enjoyable tasting menu

Lyles - No choice at dinner, but never been disappointed


Most deserving of a star:

Sushi Tetsu - Simply amazing (go with a heavy wallet)

Splendid idea – and v. useful potted summary. Here’s my tuppenyworth:

Gordon Ramsay @RHR actually an end-2014 visit but included ‘cos often overlooked but really, classical elegant and worth the occasion. Can’t wait to see Claire Smyth’s own place

Manoir Q Saison – Cooking wouldn’t frighten your maiden aunt whilst prices will alarm your bank manager but the setting is sublime and the service was world class. Flawless. Also generous re-fills on the wine pairings!

Darroze – First visit (having long been an habitué of the cocktail bar…) Pleasant but unmemorable.

Hibiscus. Like Wordsworth capable of greatness and catastrophe. Least consistent but most innovative of 2*s. Complete lack of control (Chef chooses) on the rollercoaster but when he gets it right, oh my.

Le Gavroche. First visit and oh what a disappointment. Just too dated. Luxurious and classical but the culinary equivalent of heavy velvet plush drapes.

Medlar – I know it doesn’t have one star but I’ve stolen one of the Le Gavroche’s and re-awarded it to Medlar where it is better deserved. One of my lunches of the year (Friends birthday celebration) proved beyond doubt that Medlar’s still got it, even if Michelin haven’t awarded it!

Midsummer House. Worth going to if you’re in Cambridge; not worth going to Cambridge for.

The Square. Possibly my pick of my one luxury on Desert Islands Discs would be this restaurant. Plate after plate of refined, elegant classical cooking. Sublime consistency.

Texture. First visit for a couple of years. Food a bit hit and miss (though excellent scallop starter) Wine list towering, as ever. This is where Riesling lovers end up when they die and go to heaven…

Westbury. Alyn Williams remains a bit under the radar and a little oasis of top class cooking where you can get a reservation and walk out without your wallet feeling waterboarded.

Petrus. Very impressed. Went ‘cos I’d read good things since Neil Snowball took over and wasn’t disappointed. An “occasion” place that does everything well.

Pollen Street Social. Occupies a very specialist niche of “where to go on a Friday or Saturday night when you’ve had a Japanese meal but don’t fancy the disappointment of a Japanese dessert”. Answer: the bar seats at Pollen St for a fab dessert, a glass of rum (great selection) and maybe a cocktail for the road.

Locanda Locatelli. I waited months for it to reopen, went with friends and…disaster. My fish had been left under a heat lamp for about a week and had to be sent back (I have never done this before ever) but actually could have sent back all the mains on the same basis. What was going on for that to happen? I honestly could have wept since I’ve been going since it opened and never known anything like it. Time to move on to Sartoria???

Gymkhana. Knockout. Unfortunately also lockout in terms of reservations but have discovered that turning up on spec for a seat at the bar can work – even on a Saturday! Goat keema was sensational last time. When you can’t get in Trishna is a none-too-shabby substitute! As Harters says “delish”

Clove Club. I’m sorry, I just didn’t get it. I also left hungry, the odd posh chicken nugget and blowtorched half-fillet of mackerel having not quite done it for me. As Lex says, Lyles on the other hand was absolutely the real deal. What impressed was the way that they used the set menu to introduce some things I would never personally have ordered but which were sensational. Loved this.

Kitty Fischers I found somewhere in between CC and Lyles. A good meal that still ended up being a bit disappointing because of all the attached hype. I ended up enjoying it well wnough but still thinking “was that what all the fuss was about?”. Very welcoming service and front of house.

Walnut Tree. God this was good. Had been for my birthday in 2014 and had one of my meals of the year which included things as simple as asparagus with perfect hollandaise and morels. So returned in 2015 for my dad’s 90th and it didn’t disappoint in any way shape or form. Simple, ingredient focused and cooked by someone who had the quiet easy confidence of a lifetime getting it right.

Fera. The only disappointment is that Simon Rogan couldn’t bring the scenery of the Lake District down south with him – and even here the room itself kind of makes up for it by being my favourite dining room in London, starting with a little moment of theatre as you make your way through the curtained entrance into the room proper. The food is knockout. The service is exceptional and the wine list great. And in the Art Deco surroundings of Claridges this has celebration written all over it. First went for lunch the day after my wedding in 2014 and have found every excuse to go back whenever possible since!

Looking back on this lot I think my New Year’s Resolution for 2016 should be “Must Get Out Less”. A resolution I intend to break decisively and early. 2016 looks to be The Year of the Kitchen with bookings at Tom Kitchin and the Kitchen Table (both of which are new for me) lined up for Feb and April respectively.

Most deserving of a star: Medlar.

Most repeatedly eaten at and enjoyed: Naughty Piglets (Brixton)

New place that really ticks the boxes: Noble Rot (out of the Sportsman stable now open in Lambs Conduit St).

Places I promise to go to in 2016 having unaccountably missed them until now: Rules; Dabbous; The Greenhouse (leastways, not been since Gary Rhodes was cooking there!).

Most jealous: Lex for bagging a reservation at Sushi Tetsu!

Great summary, Gareth.

We were fans of Hibiscus when Bosi opened in Ludlow and had a couple of meals when it moved to London. The second of these London visits had a lack of “wow factor” - something I want at 2* level - and we’ve not been back. Locatelli was in 2008 and it was such a disappointment.

Like you, we thought the Walnut Tree was just excellent when we went in 2011 - but that’s another chef we’ve enjoyed since Ludlow days.

Hope you enjoy The Kitchin. It was worth the trip to Edinburgh just on its own. 'Tis under-rated at 1*, IMO. Kitchin himself seems a thoroughly nice bloke - I know celeb chefs often come round the tables late in service, but there’s your man in the bar when you arrive - comes over to all the punters, “Hi, I’m Tom” and sits down for an albeit brief chat.

Now I’m doubly looking forward to Tom Kitchin’s place.

Agree with you about the Wow factor. Harder to define what it is… L’Enclume and the Ledbury have it in the innovation of their dishes (as does Hibiscus when he gets it right). I love it when this happens (e.g. first time at Mugaritz) but that’s not the essence of it; increasingly for me it is more about perfection; getting things just “so” right.

I saw elsewhere that you said you were increasingly turned off by the tasting menus. Ditto here; partly because they can feel a bit tricksy/showy and contrived. And also a bit random. With some exceptions they are a bit like a greatest hits playlist rather than an album constructed in its own right. And for me that detracts from the simple perfection that really makes me go “wow”.

The finest meals of my life have been at Ambroisie in Paris. Doesn’t offer a tasting menu. Entree, plat, dessert - maybe split a fish course between you (If you aren’t already bankrupted by three courses). A starter I had there was mollet eggs with a watercress sabayon, asparagus and caviar. The point was that somehow the egg, although barely cooked to the moment it held its solidity, had been peeled (or somehow de-shelled) unblemished. And the sabayon - although etherially light, had been somehow teased into covering the egg evenly - no running, no dripping. I was just blown away. Not only with the balance and taste of it (4 ingredients, no more…) but because there was no way on God’s green earth I could ever aspire to cook and present something like that, any more than I could outrun Usain Bolt. Flawless, simple, sublime. Wow.

North West caterer reports that Nick Edgar has been appointed as Head Chef at 1* Samling in the Lakes. Nick was previously Head Chef at Le Manoir according to the report. That reads like a bit of a backward step but I suppose it’ll mean he’ll be on his own, rather than under the eagle eye of M. Blanc.

Gareth, I couldn’t agree with you more about Fera. I’d eat there every week if I lived closer.
I took American friends there, and they were bowled over.

I was sorry to read your thoughts about Locanda Locatelli. To show how up on things I am, I didn’t
even know it had closed and reopened. We had a good meal there, but it was a few years ago. I wonder if
Locatelli is ever in the kitchen.

I suspect I am not the only foody from the north west who thinks that there’s “something afoot” when Rogan gets a star for his London based Fera, but doesnt for his longer established French in Manchester.

Any comment on Kitchen W8? Heading there and to Marcus soon. Sorry to hear Marcus didn’t wow.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold