Just back from the AA Awards dinner on Monday night at the Hilton, Park Lane. 750 people in the wonderful hotel business enjoyed an amazing dinner produced by guest Chef Paul Gagnaire, he of the eponymous 3 star Michelin restaurant in Paris and of Sketch in London. (He also has an outpost in Las Vegas at the Mandarin Hotel.) The salmon fillet starter was beautiful in every way. The surprising main course choice of blanquette de veau, albeit with a twist, reminded me of catering college and Ceserani & Kinton; the Practical Cookery book we all learned from. The twist was ginger; onion fondue and Paris mushrooms; lettuce filled with venere black rice; and brunoise of green apple and chive. A little bit more complicated than the way we used to do it. Fabulous though. People who know me will be amazed I am not going to write about the dessert. The petit fours were amazing, though I had to restrain my wife from eating the chocolate; it was the stand that held the petit fours. She doesn’t like waste.
Being reminded of rosettes and stars throughout the evening, it got me thinking about how people choose a restaurant. Do they use Michelin, the Good Food Guide the AA Rosettes, or Hardens?
In Cumbria, L’Enclume, Holbeck Ghyll and Sharrow Bay all have a Michelin Star. (The Samling does too but the Chef has left so it no longer counts.)
L’Enclume has five AA Rosettes, a very rare achievement, Holbeck has three, and Sharrow has just two.
In The Good Food Guide out of a possible ten L’Enclume has an amazing nine, Holbeck has five, and Sharrow has five too. Confusing isn’t it?
Both in London and in Cumbria if you compare the ratings it gets a bit confusing. They are lucky in London though because now there is a new list of aggregated reviews; Top 100 list. They have produced a secret formula to calculate which the best 100 restaurants are overall. The list combines Good Food Guide, Michelin and AA ratings. No mention of Zagats, Hardens or Trip Advisor though. So you have for example, Petersham Cafe with a Michelin star, only one AA Rosette and 4 from the Good Food Guide. (Linthwaite doesn’t have a Michelin star, has just two rosettes, but has a five in the Good Food Guide.) Roux at the Landau doesn’t have a Michelin star either, has just 2 AA Rosettes, but a 6 in the GFG.
So this new guide does help to clarify things. After all, every little bit helps…...
PS: Michelin and the AA have professionally trained paid inspectors to rate the restaurants anonymously. The Good Food Guide relies on experienced members of the public for their reviews, also anonymously. A bit like the pre cursor to Trip Advisor but considerably more focussed and knowledgeable. Hardens relies like Zagats on consumer reviews, based on a voting system on the web covering food, service, ambiance and value for money.