Michelin stars are arguably the most desirable accolade for any food business – globally recognised as a watermark for fine dining experiences. Winning one can lead to a massive increase in footfall and public interest.
And whilst in days gone by only the most formal of restaurants could receive a star, the UK Michelin Guide has considerably diversified the kind of establishments it views as star-worthy over the decade, leading to a number of pubs achieving them.
I fully expect that to grow this year, when the Guide announces 2016’s ratings on Thursday (17 September). Having been fortunate enough to dine in a massive variety of brilliant pubs over the last year, I can think of a few worthy contenders.
Last year, three pubs were given a one-star rating: the Cross at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, the Treby Arms, Devon and the Star Inn, North Yorkshire, which finally reclaimed its star after losing it in 2011.
The Star Inn was first given a Michelin star in 2002, making it the second pub in the country to ever win one (the Stagg Inn, Herefordshire, was the first to be given one back in 2001).
Be all and end all
“I’d never even dreamt of getting one,” says Andrew Pern, chef patron of the Star Inn. “Pubs never really used to get them. For any chef worth their salt it’s pretty much their be all and end all to get a star – it’s as high as you can get in our trade really”
For any chef worth their salt it's pretty much their be all and end all to get a star
The impact of getting a star on a business is substantial – in the first year after being given a star, Pern’s pub increased its turnover by roughly £200,000, he says.
And although the Star lost its star in 2011, when it regained it last year turnover increased by roughly 60%. “And on average I think it’s about 22% each month it’s gone up week-on-week,” he says.
The UK Michelin Guide has faced criticism in the past over the alleged untouchability of certain three-star chefs and what some see as incessant francophilia – an undying infatuation with French-influenced cooking, which many consider has gotten a little stale over the past decade.
But despite those arguments, it’s still viewed as the gold standard for dining across the world – an exclusive club that I’m thrilled to see more pubs joining. And in welcoming pubs into the fold, isn’t the guide recognising that what the public want from dining out has changed?
So the best of luck to the chefs and licensees for Thursday morning – don’t forget to check the @PMAfood twitter account and www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/pub-food for ongoing coverage throughout the day.
Ones to watch?
The Lickfold Inn:
This pub, owned by London chef Tom Sellers of Restaurant Story, was given a massively favourable nod by the UK Michelin Guide’s Twitter account.
Sample dishes include mackerel with alliums, skate wing with brown butter, capers and pickled salsify and BBQ apricot with yoghurt and poppy seeds.
The Freemasons at Wiswell:
Chef patron Steven Smith’s Lancashire pub has consistently ranked in the Top 50 Gastropubs and came top of the Good Food Guide’s Top 50 Pubs list for the second consecutive year in a row last month.
Sample dishes include heritage potatoes cooked in bacon dashi with Scottish girolles, crispy hen’s egg and Iberico ham, native lobster with crispy claw wontons, potato cooked in seaweed, fresh blueberries and black pepper sauce and vanilla slice with Scottish raspberries, honeycomb and salted caramel ice cream.
The Staith House:
Masterchef: the Professionals 2010 winner John Calton’s North Shields pub the Staith House is relatively new on the scene, but has already gone on to be featured in the Michelin Guide and won the title of Best Food Pub at this year’s Great British Pub Awards.
Sample dishes include citrus cured salmon with pink grapefruit and radish, sea trout with cauliflower, St George’s mushrooms, grapes and capers and roast figs with baked ginger custard and crumble.