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What's in a star...

1st February 2015

Restaurants across Great Britain and Ireland were on tender hooks last October, as Michelin released its 2015 Guide to Restaurants and Hotels in London. While some were left disappointed, others proudly rushed to reprint their menus, hoping to add more gourmet foodies and even some celebrities, to their client lists.

This yearly phenomenon has left me wondering, what's in this tiny little star that leaves us expecting fancy dress and a gourmet feast? How these privileged restaurants are selected among so many fine contestants, and can we really trust them to deliver what we expect?

Our curiosity led us to dig deep behind the scenes of the Michelin Guide, the Big Brother of restaurants and hotels worldwide. What many do not realise is that, much like MI5, the Michelin Guide has secret agents scattered across the globe at its service.

Their mission is to survey the premises for recommended hotels and restaurants, over a range of budgets and styles. Once these high-quality establishments have been identified, the agents are ready to infiltrate. Obsessed with quality and reliability, they dine several times at the same restaurant or spend several nights at the same hotel (naturally, always undercover), in order to adequately assess every aspect of their experience. When sitting in front of a plate, a Michelin secret agent does not merely 'dig in'. Rather, they scrutinize it according to very specific criteria, namely...the quality of the products - are they seasonal, fresh? The mastering of flavours - do they mix well, are they original, do they relate to the chosen cuisine, if any the mastering of cooking - too little, too much? The personality of the cuisine - is it distinctive? The value for the money paid consistency in what the restaurant has to offer its customers throughout the year.

Once they've minutely gone over the list above, and following several trials, the agents are ready to report back to Michelin headquarters, where the power to distribute stars resides. Briefly, a glittering star next to a name is a marker of success, and reaching a maximum of three stars places one at the top of the game.

Deciphering the 'Star Code':

  • One star: Indicates a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine of a consistently high standard. It is a place to stop on your journey.
  • Two stars: Denotes a restaurant offering an excellent cuisine, with skilfully crafted dishes of outstanding quality. It is definitely worth a detour.
  • Three stars: Awarded to a restaurant offering exceptional cuisine, where diners can eat superbly. Distinctive dishes are executed to precision, using superlative ingredients. It is worth a special journey (aka Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road).

Aside for the stars, the Michelin Guide also uses several symbols to rate the specialities, ambiance and wine, among other factors, of the establishments. For instance, comfort is measured by a certain number of illustrated forks and spoons (restaurants) or pavilions (hotels). Whatever your opinion of the Michelin Guide may be, the truth remains that earning one of its stars remains one of the highest honours in the hospitality industry. Its agents are always watching, possibly a motivation for restaurants and hotels worldwide to never cease being creative and neglect their clients. For whilst a star can be won, it can just as easily be lost.

To find a Michelin starred restaurant near to you click here.

To learn more about how the Michelin Guides work, click here.

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