Yesterday, the Michelin Guide for Great Britain & Ireland 2012 was launched four months earlier than usual, which caused quite a stir and had ‘Michelin’ trending on Twitter. Some people were disappointed with the results, some were ecstatic and others felt indifferent.
However, one result that cannot be ignored was the two coveted Michelin stars that were awarded to a British pub, the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. It’s the first British pub to be awarded two Michelin stars for its food.
According to the Michelin Guide, one star represents a “very good cuisine in its category”, two stars indicate “excellent cuisine, worth a detour,” and three stars are awarded to establishments that present “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.
13 pubs were awarded Michelin stars with three of them winning the award for the first time, including the Black Swan in Oldstead, the Butchers Arms in Gloucestershire and the Sir Charles Napier in Oxfordshire.
Husband and wife, Tom and Beth Kerridge, opened the Hand & Flowers in 2005 and got recognition from the editor of Michelin Guide, Rebecca Burr who stated “a good news story for the British pub in industry”.
The Hand & Flowers won over Michelin’s famously anonymous inspectors with their menus which featured “the best available seasonal ingredients” and “unpretentious modern British flavours as well as rustic French dishes”.
Kerridge was obviously very happy with winning the second Michelin star, he said “You never expect things like this, especially in a pub. We try very hard to be good at what we do, but when this comes along it’s phenomenal.” He says the secret to his great food is that, “we try very hard to use good products. There’s no trickery involved. There’s no different, odd flavour combinations.”
However, unusual combinations have been successful for other restaurants including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, which has won him 3 Michelin stars. His latest restaurant at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dinner, has also gained one Michelin star.
The Hand & Flowers is a far cry from the usual packet of crisps and pork scratchings behind the bar. The dishes on the menu included slow cooked duck breast, roast veal sweetbreads and truffled pork terrine.
Food writers have criticised the Michelin Guide since the first publication in 1900. A few food journalists from the US have suggested that the rating system is biased in favour of French dining standards or French cuisine.
Jo Barnes, Restaurant PR said there was a division between bloggers and critics on one hand and chefs on the other over Michelin’s significance, “But the fact remains, for the vast majority of the industry, and to chefs, it is still the highlight of the year. It’s still their absolute Oscars, so it’s massively exciting.”
Barnes also said that in London, the general consensus is that it was a lot harder to move up from two to three stars or from one to two. She explains that “It feels like [Michelin] sprinkle the stars out much more generously in, say New York. They are on a real PR drive in the US to win the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.”
The Michelin Guide can be questionable to some, but there’s no doubt that being on this list creates a buzz and increases the popularity of a restaurant, which means more customers, more money and that overheads like hiring staff, purchasing restaurant insurance and bringing wonderful supplies and food to the restaurant, can all be paid for.