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Ireland and Michelin Stars - Forkncork.com

Ireland and Michelin Stars

Home Forums Forum Ireland and Michelin Stars

This topic contains 29 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  unclepat 4 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #4989

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    Corinna Hardgrave (Dunne to forkncorkers) wrote, in my opinion, an excellent article on the rise-and-rise of Ireland’s visibility in the hitherto unfocussed sights of the Michelin inspectorate in The Sunday Times ‘Sunday’ Magazine.
    With the recent ennoblement of Aniar and Locks, now we are eight and hey, isn’t that brilliant. But wait a minute, folks. Barcelona (population 1,615,448) has 22 stars. Luxembourg (517,000) has 16. Even little Bruges (116,885) has 14.
    All of which makes Dublin’s 7 look a tad meagre and surely adds fuel to the argument that Michelin is primarily concerned with encouraging and propagating a defined style of cooking/dining and, in the acerbic words of A.A.Gill* being “wholly out of touch with the way people actually eat”.
    Any views?

    Incidentally, in 1997 Ireland had 9 Michelin-starred restaurants.

    * http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/11/whats-wrong-with-the-michelin-guide – recommended reading

    see also http://www.elizabethonfood.com/content/1345/2/What%27s_eating_A.A._Gill%3F.html (thanks to Martin Kajuiter for heads-up on this riposte)

  • #24256

    unclepat
    Participant

    There is undoubtedly a shift in thinking at Michelin Ernie, especially in relation to Ireland. I spoke with a Michelin inspector last year who told me that historically they have been reluctant to hand out stars in Ireland as, for varying reasons, so many have been lost over the years soon after being awarded ( Think Adare Manor, Chez Hans, Park Kenmare, Sheen Falls, Cliffords, Shanks, Oriel, Mint, Roscoff, Deanes etc )
    They now feel that we have a more established dining culture and some stability so they can now start to award stars with more confidence that the chef/restaurant will still be around come the print run for next year’s guide.
    The cynical side of me would suggest that their new found policies are as much to do with broadening their sales base as they are with rewarding more casual establishments.

  • #24257

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    Pat, the cynical side of me would agree.
    And, obiter, maybe we’d have come on a sight quicker if they’d not been so quick to take our stars away!
    Funny time, too, to talk about ‘stability’.

  • #24258

    Corinna
    Participant

    Yep, there’s been a shift but agree that we can’t throw away the sceptics hat just yet. They are after all in the business of selling books. How many people in Ireland buy the Michelin Guide? John & Sally McKenna’s Guide and the Georgina Campbell Guide are the ones people buy here, and the Good Food Guide in the UK. They have a lot of work to do if they want to get people switching. And most people are not familiar with what the knife and fork symbols mean.

    Great that you had a visit in Alexis unclepat, but can’t understand why you don’t have a Bib.

    It’s good to see Michelin paying more attention to Ireland and great to get two more stars, but in some ways, it raises more questions than it answers. Paul Flynn isn’t leaving the Tannery any time soon… but didn’t get a star. There’s Seamus Commons at Knockranny, Neven in MacNean, Garrett in Campagne… and if they’re going down the casual route, shouldn’t some of the places with Bibs like O’Brien Chophouse and the Wild Honey Inn have stars? And I’m sure I’ve left loads of people out, so please fill in the gaps.

  • #24259

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    Pat, I could be wrong but I don’t think Adare Manor ever hard a star. Not sure about Cliffords either. And a bit unfair to Deane’s (14 consecutive), Roscoff (8), Park (6) and Sheen Falls Lodge (6). True that Chez Hans only had their star for one year, Oriel for 2.

  • #24260

    Diapason
    Participant

    I think both of those articles are good, Ernie. AA Gill has some good points to make, but can’t help lapsing into lazy stereotypes to suit his argument. The response makes some good points too, but protests too much. One thing really spoke to me, and it’s this:

    “Michelin does not instruct people in its guides to behave awkwardly. I for one have as much fun, get just as drunk (or shall we perhaps call it jolly rather than hammered), as I would at any other restaurant. At the end of the day a Michelin starred restaurant is just a place where you have a good time, whilst enjoying beautiful food, fine wine and excellent service.”

    Amen to that!

    It’s hard to interpret Michelin’s latest elevations here, but I’d certainly be of the opinion that it was historically “harder” to get a star in Ireland than in many other places. I’ve eaten in several restaurants in France, the UK and especially NY that I don’t think would be awarded a star if transplanted to th’aul sod. I’ve seen it argued elsewhere in relation to the UK that Michelin is greatly swayed by buzz and hype there, and since the restaurant PR machine isn’t as slick here as elsewhere, it probably stands to reason that Irish restaurants don’t get the same attention. I also can’t help but feel that because we don’t have a high-end culinary tradition here of any sort we’re always fighting an uphill battle for credibility.

    Then, of course, there’s the shifting Michelin goal-posts and the recent trend towards casual dining. Like watching your 80 year-old grandad trying to dance to Lady Gaga, I just don’t think Michelin know what they’re doing at the casual end of the spectrum. On that score I think there’s merit to AA Gill’s contention that Michelin is out of touch with how people actually eat. However, there’s a tacit assumption there that “people” make places popular because they’re good, and that simply isn’t the case in Ireland (I won’t speculate about elsewhere). I used to feel I had a good grasp of Michelin in Ireland and while I thought we were sternly-marked, it seemed sensible enough. Now I haven’t a clue what they’re up to.

    IMO, your average Joe is still deeply suspicious of fancy food, or anything that could be considered as “up yourself”, and even when money was being thrown around freely during the Celtic Tiger years this attitude was strong. Interest in food is growing in some circles of course, but for many people who have the means to eat out, it’s all about image, or cocktails, or craic, or something other than food. I’m not too surprised that the number of (classic) Michelin-style restaurants was low, because we probably just don’t have enough interested parties to support that end of the market here. Now that Michelin are changing their focus, who knows where it will bring us.

    Still, bottom line is I don’t understand the Michelin Guide. And for GOD’S SAKE why doesn’t Alexis have a bib??

    FYI, the history of Michelin stars in Ireland is available here: http://www.michelinonline.co.uk/travel/star-history.htm

  • #24261

    unclepat
    Participant

    @ernie Whalley wrote:

    Pat, I could be wrong but I don’t think Adare Manor ever hard a star. Not sure about Cliffords either. And a bit unfair to Deane’s (14 consecutive), Roscoff (8), Park (6) and Sheen Falls Lodge (6). True that Chez Hans only had their star for one year, Oriel for 2.

    Fair point Ernie, I got a few wrong there. Diapason’s interesting link has thrown up a few I’d never heard of too. There seems to have been quite a few over the years who won then lost them. That certainly seems to be Michelin’s justification for the lack of stars in recent years.

    I’ve being trying to understand where Michelin have been coming from and I think that they are now starting to implement their own criteria a little more rigerously than before. The first star for having great food ” in their category” has always meant that a pub could get one just as easily as a white linen restaurant but it’s only in the last five years that they have started to apply this across their new markets. This is certainly an effort to drive sales rather than award more stars but either way has at least made the whole process a bit more interesting.

    I personally get more of a buzz out of eating in a pub such as The Sportsman than a formulaic Michelin joint…even if that description has changed now from snooty French to ambivalent Nordic.
    In terms of Ireland, I was as shocked as anyone with the news of the recent star announcements but when you apply the “in their category” criteria..it probably makes a little more sense. I also note Rebecca Burr as good as said that The Greenhouse is nailed on for next year in Corinna’s excellent piece on Sunday.

  • #24262

    Diapason
    Participant

    Don’t suppose Corinna’s piece is online? If the Greenhouse doesn’t get one next year Michelin will lose a lot of credibility in these parts, I’d say.

  • #24263

    Corinna
    Participant

    I don’t think the ‘Sunday’ piece is online. Reading between the lines when I was talking to Rebecca Burr, it sounds like they had consistency issues with the Greenhouse but she expects they will be in the running for a star next year along with others. I’ve only been to the Greenhouse twice, and both times, the food was exquisite. I hadn’t heard reports on inconsistencies, they may just have been unlucky. She made the point that there is no need for amuse and pre-desserts, but if they are included in a meal, they will be judged along with everything else. It’s all about the food. But she did say that they look at all types of restaurants, so the formal restaurant is by no means old hat.

    Her view is that the style of restaurants has changed in Ireland, and they’re very excited about it. They have inspectors over every month, and she personally checks out any new restaurants in the running for a star based on the feedback from the inspectors. Which is all good for us. They started awarding stars to more casual places in the UK like Arbutus, Wild Honey and the gastro pubs quite a while back so good to see a few more gongs over here. But, yes, as pointed out above, it makes things even more confusing and points to omissions more than ever.

    I asked her if a chef with a star who has a formal type of restaurant decided to dial down the pomp, would there be a danger of losing the star… and again, on message, no, at one star level, it’s all about the food.

  • #24264

    shortcircuit
    Participant

    Ernie, did you think the food in Aniar merited a star (If that means anything anymore?)

    I suppose what I’m asking is the food there as good as its one-star brethern here (Cliff House, Thornton’s, Bon Appetit, Chapter One, L’Ecrivain and now Locks)

  • #24265

    unclepat
    Participant

    @shortcircuit wrote:

    I suppose what I’m asking is the food there as good as its one-star brethern here (Cliff House, Thornton’s, Bon Appetit, Chapter One, L’Ecrivain and now Locks)

    I think that’s exactly where Michelin causes confusion. It is not necessarily in the same category as those other restaurants and therefore shouldn’t be compared. It is awarded a star for having excellent food ” in their category”. Therefore, conveivably a cafe, pub, or food van even could win a star for it’s food, and wouldn’t be compared to other one stars that might be in the fine dining category.

  • #24266

    Diapason
    Participant

    @unclepat wrote:

    @shortcircuit wrote:

    I suppose what I’m asking is the food there as good as its one-star brethern here (Cliff House, Thornton’s, Bon Appetit, Chapter One, L’Ecrivain and now Locks)

    I think that’s exactly where Michelin causes confusion. It is not necessarily in the same category as those other restaurants and therefore shouldn’t be compared. It is awarded a star for having excellent food ” in their category”. Therefore, conveivably a cafe, pub, or food van even could win a star for it’s food, and wouldn’t be compared to other one stars that might be in the fine dining category.

    I agree that this always causes confusion, but when you get down to it, it’s quite hard to parse the Michelin description here. Does anyone know what the “categories” actually are? When does a pub become a restaurant, etc?

    I accept that food van is probably well-defined. If Michelin are looking for publicity, that would be quite the star to award!

  • #24267

    Corinna
    Participant

    Bit of bad news… just saw that O’Brien Chophouse in Lismore is closing http://bit.ly/OYDSnA. One less Bib Gourmand for the country.

  • #24268

    unclepat
    Participant

    I agree that this always causes confusion, but when you get down to it, it’s quite hard to parse the Michelin description here. Does anyone know what the “categories” actually are? When does a pub become a restaurant, etc?

    I accept that food van is probably well-defined. If Michelin are looking for publicity, that would be quite the star to award![/quote]

    Therein lies the great mystery of Michelin…only they themselves appear to know which categories establishments fall into.

  • #24255

    unclepat
    Participant

    @corinna wrote:

    Bit of bad news… just saw that O’Brien Chophouse in Lismore is closing http://bit.ly/OYDSnA. One less Bib Gourmand for the country.

    Sad to read about this…it’s a real shame.

  • #24254

    Corinna
    Participant

    Just in case we start getting ahead of ourselves….

    The lesser sighted Michelin man has been in evidence trawling the country, the most recent spate of visits covered areas from Belfast, Kilkenny and back up to Dublin… and he doesn’t have a great opinion of Ireland I’m afraid.

    The word on the street is that he’s not impressed with the food standards, thinks Ireland is behind, and that we have come too far too fast.

    Oh yeah, and he also thinks Irish chefs are too wrapped up in celebrity circles.

  • #24251

    Diapason
    Participant

    I’m not at all surprised by that response, because it’s what I’ve always thought Michelin thinks. It still makes me go “hmmm…”

    Taken as a whole, it’s hard to argue with the notion that Ireland is behind and that food standards are low. Getting a genuinely good meal pretty much *anywhere* in Ireland is a challenge, especially so outside of the obvious centres. In many towns and villages it’s basically impossible, and even in major centres it still requires serious local knowledge to find the one or two genuinely good places. If you’re trying to find restaurants in Ireland that compete on the international scale, you won’t fill too many pages in the book. So yes, so far I agree with Mr Michelin.

    But the general shouldn’t be used to judge the specific.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if virtually every restaurant in the country is crap, that doesn’t really mean anything at the starred level. I still feel that it’s “harder” for any given restaurant in Ireland to get a star, and I think Mr Michelin’s views here tally with what I said upthread: “I also can’t help but feel that because we don’t have a high-end culinary tradition here of any sort we’re always fighting an uphill battle for credibility.” So, putting on my tin-foil hat, it’s easy to imagine Mr Michelin deciding that if Irish restaurants in general are crap, then the good ones can’t really be that good. That might explain the grade inflation in NY for example: NY has a great dining reputation, discerning punters, blah blah blah. The “good” restaurants have to be good, right?

    Hard to imagine where the celebrity circles comment comes from too, especially compared to the UK. Who’s he talking about here? Dylan McGrath? Paul Flynn? Kevin Dundon? Are there really many celebrity chefs in Ireland, and if so, is it getting in the way of the restaurants?

  • #24252

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    Corinna, who constitutes ‘the word on the street’? Restaurateurs? Chefs? Journalists? Guide book editors?

    To paraphrase Jack Nicholson (as Charlie Partanna in Prizzi’s Honour)* – If Michelin Man is so fucking incognito, how come he’s so fucking gabby? Nobody is supposed to know who the Michelin inspectors are, they are supposed to operate in conditions of complete anonymity yet everyone I know in the business claims to have talked to at least one.
    If these people have been gobbing off to restaurateurs and journos, for me it lowers Michelin’s credibility even further.

    *Marxie Heller so fuckin ‘ smart, how come he’s so fuckin’ dead?

  • #24253

    Corinna
    Participant

    @ernie Whalley wrote:

    Corinna, who constitutes ‘the word on the street’? Restaurateurs? Chefs? Journalists? Guide book editors?

    Heard this from a restaurateur. Some of them know quite a few of the Michelin inspectors at this stage, because they introduce themselves at the end if they like a place, or may have a quick chat if it’s a place that’s already in the book and they’re checking it out to see if it’s still up to scratch. I don’t think they’re particularly chatty in general.

    A table for one is odd at the best of times, although I’m not sure it’s always a table for one, but here and in any other country they’re reviewing, the word goes around the trade pretty quickly when they’re in town. Recognising them may be a small advantage, but as you know, even if you’re recognised as a critic/inspector, there’s not much you can do to improve things if you just can’t cook. Good service and fawning won’t save the day.

  • #24250

    unclepat
    Participant

    They introduce themselves at the end of their meal and usually have a chat with the chef/owner. They will do at least 3 incognito visits ( usually in parties of 2 or 4) when judging for a star.

  • #24247

    unclepat
    Participant

    I note that the chefs are gone from both of the restaurants whoh received their first stars last October. They will therefore possibly lose their stars this year. This is the problem Michelin have with Ireland as mentioned upthread.

  • #24248

    Diapason
    Participant

    I hadn’t heard that, Pat. Where have they gone to?

  • #24249

    unclepat
    Participant

    Not sure about Enda Mc Evoy but Rory Carville and Oliver Dunne are opening in the Clarence Hotel from what I’ve read.

  • #24242

    europhile
    Participant
  • #24243

    H.P.Pellaprat
    Participant

    Michelin, a 100 year old concept printed on paper!!!! The world has changed and I would argue that guidebooks, magazines and newspapers (apart from the likes of the Galway Advertiser) have become pretty irrelevant. The dominant player who really couldn’t care less about reputations, egos and politics is TripAdvisor and any establishment with over 100 reviews can argue proper statistical validity. I only have to look at my Google analytics page to see just how important TripAdvisor is and how irrelevant the rest are (about 100:3 referrals from the rest combined as a ratio).
    Simply look at the Irish guide books, they all have something to sell such as wall signs, listings, enhanced listings and so on!! The national journalist ones are the most unethical with fees of around €400 for their kind words!!! Michelin is probably the only guidebook that has no alternative sales pitch. But it’s still elitist and irrelevant.
    The normal punter on the street now rules and that’s how it should be!!

  • #24244

    unclepat
    Participant

    Tripadvisor may work in towns like Galway who are heavily dependent on tourists but in Dublin it has no credibility whatsoever…and rightly so in my opinion.

  • #24245

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    Their REAL reviews are bad enough but…
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/10201754/TripAdvisor-fails-to-spot-fake-restaurant.html

    Hey, why am I not surprised?

  • #24246

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    @H.P.Pellaprat wrote:

    The dominant player who really couldn’t care less about reputations, egos and politics is TripAdvisor

    It doesn’t care much about truth, either. Check out the Number One restaurant in Dublin on Trip Advisor. Go and eat there. I did and it was shocking bad value for money. In fact most of it was shocking bad. If you want to waste €100 I can think of no better way.
    Trip Advisor’s “Number One Restaurant in Alghero, Sardinia” is actually an ice cream shop.
    Their methodology is flawed, flawed, flawed. Too open to abuse – the system can be fiddled by ‘packing’ the site with bogus reviews. Also there is a good deal to suggest that restaurants have been the subject of spiteful adverse reviews – perhaps by competitors or just malicious people with an axe to grind, I don’t know. These reviews are inevitably written under a pseudonym.

    @H.P.Pellaprat wrote:

    The normal punter on the street now rules and that’s how it should be!!

    I can see the argument that Trip Adviser benefits a restaurant’s footfall but please don’t give me any guff about its credibility!

  • #24239

    H.P.Pellaprat
    Participant

    Come on, credibility in reviewing both from an amateur and professional perspective! I can show you plenty of reviews by Irish journalists that are complete works of fiction and were the so-called reviewer has never set foot into an establishment. Or how about receiving payment, free food/ wine, accommodation and so on for a review or during the course of a review, is there not a bias and why do many reviewers think that a fundamental standard should not apply to them, this is basic ethics? Should they not state if any form of compensation was received? Of course there are good people in your industry, but there are a fair few bad ones.
    I don’t particularly like Trip Advisor and idiotic Trolls have attacked us in the same way as almost every other hospitality provider. HOWEVER. TripAdvisor is rapidly becoming the information source of choice for consumers and accordingly should be taken very seriously. The impact of online consumer forums is well recognised by marking academics and practitioners as a growing and critical area. Being credible or not is irrelevant, our customers like TripAdvisor and it is growing.

  • #24240

    unclepat
    Participant

    It may work for certain types of restaurants ( those catering for tourists) as it will only be relied upon by certain types of customer…namely tourists without much interest in food just looking for a steer to popular places. As an exercise, check out the most popular restaurants in any major town or city..almost always an average joint who works hard at getting reviews posted.

    Anyone with an interest in food would never use Trip Advisor a guide.

  • #24241

    Ernie Whalley
    Participant

    HP, I hear what you are saying.
    But Pat is right, using Trip Advisor as a guide to a restaurant’s quality is simply not on. Okay, it can tell you where restaurants are but, from the standpoint of someone wanting to have an enhanced dining experience it’s pretty useless. Sabor Brazil, best restaurant in Dublin? Come on.
    I will agree it has great potential as a marketing tool. Get a dozen of your mates (under assumed names) to write a favourable review, away you go. Cynical, I know but realistic.

    I’d also agree there are many crap critics in both print and online media. And a few who are easily influenced.

    From my own standpoint I will admit that I occasionally accept offers of hospitality from hotels and restaurants. Sometimes the hospitality is extended in return for an informal assessment of new rooms, new menu, new facilities or whatever.
    I make it a point of honour in every case to warn the proprietors (or their PR people) [a] that the acceptance of such hospitality will not necessarily result in a review and if it does, I reserve the right to be critical, even to the point of writing an adverse review.
    Making this statement has sometimes resulted in the hotel or restaurant withdrawing their offer!

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