Michelin Star list for 2010

The new Michelin star listings came out this month, see:-

Glad to see that Le Bristol retained its 3 stars, see post:-

But  there were a couple of surprises there too:-

Surprised that L’Astrance and Hibiscus kept all their stars, both are over rated in my view, see posts:-

Surprised that El Celler De Can Roca got promoted to a 3 star, see post:-

Shocked that Parc des Eaux Vives lost its stars – not that the food has gone down hill, see post

It is just that this wonderful restaurant is closed.  So glad we had the chance to experience it twice.

For more on the Michelin star system see post:-

Michelin Stars v AA Rosettes – Ding Ding!

No Expert has just hit the 100th post mark, so for that milestone rather than single out a restaurant, this post focuses on an issue that impacted on a number of our restaurant choices and that is can we trust Michelin Star and AA Rosette ratings alone.

I know there is a lot of debate over how accurate the Michelin star rating system is. I believe we have been to enough Michelin starred restaurants to give an opinion on the subject. Basically the  problems seem to be inconsistency and big name restaurants hanging on to stars they no longer merit. The Michelin star rating seems to be about as reliable as the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, i.e., not reliable at all.

The rating system definition for Michelin stars is:-

  • 1 star – A very good restaurant in its category
  • 2 stars – Excellent cooking, worth a detour
  • 3 stars – Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

For more information see Michelin Guide

We have been to some 3 star and 2 star Michelin restaurants that are not in the same class as 1 star restaurants.  Compare Tom Aikens to The Waterside Inn for example.

The 5 AA Rosettes award however does seem to match our tastes. The ones on the list in England for example are among our all time favorite restaurants.

The rating system definition for 5 AA Rosettes :-

  • The supreme accolade awarded only when the cooking is at the pinnacle of achievement. Flavours, combinations and textures show a faultless sense of balance, giving each dish an extra dimension.

The rating system definition for 4 AA Rosettes :-

  • At this level, not only should all technical skills be exemplary, but there should also be daring ideas, and they must work. There is no room for disappointment. Flavours should be accurate and vibrant.

Then just when I thought I could maybe rely on the AA Rosettes I find out that one of our worst of the worst restaurants Harveys of Ramsgate has just been awarded one AA Rosette, and that another of our least favorite places Abode in Canterbury has 2.

The rating system definition for 1 AA Rosette :-

  • Chefs should display a mastery of basic techniques and be able to produce dishes of sound quality and clarity of flavours, using good, fresh ingredients.

The rating system definition for 2 AA Rosettes :-

  • Innovation, greater technical skill and more consistency and judgement in combining and balancing ingredients are all needed at this level

Our experience of Harveys of Ramsgate and Abode indicated that they were sadly lacking in several of the areas associated with the definitions.

For more information see:-

The conclusion is that research is essential before you  commit to the really expensive dining experiences in the high end restaurants.

  • Check out the food blogs.
  • Check out Hardens and Zagat.
  • Look for real customer reviews via Google Maps.
  • Be really wary of the hype.
  • Be wary of Celebrity Chef endorsements.

Click here to access our prefered Food Blog/Site list.

  • It is also worth trying one of the restaurants deals first, e.g., a pre-theatre or set lunch deal.  It is surprising just how many of the top restaurants do offer less expensive options. The toptable web site is a good place to start to find these deals.

The Waterside Inn – old fashioned comfort

I found the food at  The Waterside Inn in Bray to be quite conventional, fairly typical french haute cuisine. I have to admit I expected a lot more from a 3 star Michelin – I suspect at least 1 star applied to the location.

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It was also a bit of a struggle to find a reasonably priced bottle of Champagne – the wine list was a bit daunting. That said it was a lovely day out. The Waterside Inn is a very comfortable venue. We made our selves at home, spending hours out on the terrace after lunch drinking brandy that was older than we were, and indulging in a little too much PX.

Here is a short video about The Waterside Inn:-

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 8

Ambience 8

Waterside Inn on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Berkshire, UK

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El Celler De Can Roca – numbers do lie!

The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list rates El Celler De Can Roca as number 5, not that the place is bad, far from it. It is just that I haven’t been to all the best restaurants in the world yet, and this one already is not in my top 5.  Actually I should have know better than trust this list, as last year I visited number 11 L’Astrance in Paris, again not bad – but not really worth in my view the acolades it receives. Plus this year Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea did not even make the top 100, and that is most definately in my top 10.

El Celler De Can Roca is out in the suburbs of Girona, so about 1 hour on the train from Barcelona, then a 10-15 minute taxi ride.  It is a very stylish venue, and they had some nice touches, the one I especially approved off, was the complimentary Cava and water (not that we did not really pay for it in the bill – as El Celler De Can Roca is not cheap). This is a much nicer approach than staff pushing you to buy a glass of overpriced Champagne before your meal (one of my pet hates).

An easier alternative in the Roca Brothers empire, is to just stay in Barcelona and go to their restaurant at Hotel Omm , Moo.

UPDATE: March 2010 – El Celler De Can Roca, was awarded its third Michelin star this year.

UPDATE: April 2010 –  El Celler De Can Roca is now at number 4 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list.

UPDATE: April 2013 –  El Celler De Can Roca is now number 1 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 8

Ambience 8

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Girona, Spain

Sant Pau, Sant Pol de Mer – a breath of fresh air

To get out of the city for a day, we went to Carme Ruscelleda’s restaurant in Sant Pol de Mer (about 40 minutes on the RENFE train from Barcelona).

 

 

 

 

Interesting location overlooking the sea and the train station.

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Very good, beautiful and amusingly presented food.

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There is also  a rather interesting shrine on the way out, see if you can spot the tribute to the Michelin Man.

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Looking forward to Spains top-ranked female chef opening an outpost in the not too distant future at the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7 – ( Sommelier 4 )

Ambience 8

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Sant Pol de Mer, Spain

Le Bristol, Paris – oh la la

Visited Eric Frechon’s restaurant Le Bristol (www.hotel-bristol.com) last Summer, and am so pleased to hear that it now has its third Michelin star, it’s the only restaurant in France to get one this year apparently.  We had the summer tasting menu, which was in a class of its own, everything was perfect. Unfortunately I was so into the food I did not take enough pictures to truly capture the experience.

It was very expensive last year and now with the Euro exchange rate and its third star, it’s way out of most peoples price range (gents also require jacket and tie….argh).

This is my benchmark for culinary excellence, no wonder it is rumoured to be Nicolas Sarkozys favorite.

For more on Le Bristol, check out this video:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABMyH2-UuYk&NR=1

Marks out of 10

Food 9.5

Service 8

Ambience 8

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Paris, France

L’Astrance – a little bit strange!

The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list rates this place as the 11th top restaurant in the world, it is certainly one of the hardest to get through to on the phone. I managed to get a reservation via a contact in the industry, but found I had problems reconfirming it, eventually after numerous attempts at different times of the day I managed to reconfirm.

It is quite a small room with a mezzanine area.  Every table was taken, this was so obviously the place to be.

The service was first rate, but we found that the food was a bit hit and miss, which is surprising for a 3 Star Michelin.

 

Some courses worked, others tasted either a bit odd or bland, the desserts were in my view the highlight.

They also finished off the meal by serving tomatoes!  L’Astrance was definately a bit strange.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 8

Ambience 6.5

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Paris, France

Eleven Madison Park – Sweet success!

I enjoyed Eleven Madison Park, the place has style.

To get a feel for it, I would recommend viewing the rather fun short, speed-ed up film showing the restaurant in action over a 7 hour period.

On the food front I especially remember a sharing dessert platter.

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It was way too big for us to finish, which may have been the idea, as they were only too happy to box it up for us to take back to our Hotel.  It was absolutely yummy,  just thinking about it gives me a sugar rush!.

UPDATE February 2010 – It seems like Eleven Madison Park is not loosing its touch, Andy Hayler gave it very high marks in his recent review.

See 11 Madison Park Review

UPDATE : September 2011 – Danny Meyer may be selling Eleven Madison Park, see http://www.tinyurls.co.uk/1q1 for details.

UPDATE : October 2011 – Eleven Madison Parks has been awarded 3 Michelin stars. It is also definitely being sold, for details see Eater artical.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 7

Ambience 7

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – New York, USA

The Fat Duck – OTT

The Fat Duck in Bray is the complete opposite of its near neighbour the Waterside Inn, The Waterside goes for old fashioned comfort (old money clientele), the Fat Duck does “flash” (new money clientele).

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The room is minimalist in style and the food is excellent with very over the top presentation.

We visited before the recent alleged food poisoning problems, and experienced all the trade mark gimmicks – Dry Ice, Dragons Breath, IPods and the obligatory Snails Porridge. We also went for a matching flight of wines. There are two price options here, expensive and extortionate.  We restrained ourselves and kept the wine bill under £100 per person.

It was an experience, but I have to admit I missed the warmth of the Waterside Inn as once the meal is finished, there is no way you would want to hang around or indeed be encouraged to hang around in the rather cold room.  Then again I guess that is why Heston Blumenthal’s Hinds Head is only a few yards away.

The Fat Duck is currently number 2 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list.

Marks out of 10

Food 9

Service 8

Ambience 6 (we were the noisiest people there and we were not that loud).

The Fat Duck on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Berkshire, UK

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Royal Hospital Road

Must do a return visit to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Royal Hospital Road, maybe once the credit crunch is over.  On my first visit I was pleasantly surprised how low key and unpretentious this place was, as all really good restaurants tend to be. The staff were highly professional and friendly.

The food here was off a high standard – do not confuse this place with other Gordon Ramsay outposts like :-

  • Boxwood Cafe – which on my visit served up fairly boring food on chipped china!
  • Claridges –  which has 1 Michelin star that I do not think it merits. This is based on my own experience and reports from friends, the conclusion being that the food in Claridges is quite ordinary and the service leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Maze – which does provide good food and wines, but is let down by the casual style of service and the room, which is far too big and somewhat  lacking in ambience.

Royal Hospital Road however is the real deal – haute cuisine at its finest. When we were there the man himself was actually in the kitchen (this must be a rarity now with all his TV work). The wines are also top quality, I had a stunning Gewurztraminer to accompany my Fois Gras. We over ordered on the dessert front though, as after a lovely light pre-dessert, we elected to share a rather large tarte tatin (we had spotted one at the next table and it looked so good), and some how managed to find room for the lovely petit fours too. We left the restaurant fully satisfied and off the opinion that this place seriously rivaled our then favorite restaurant Pied a terre.

Marks out of 10

Food – 8.8

Service 9

Ambience 7

Gordon Ramsay on Urbanspoon

UPDATE  April  2010 : The Boxwood Cafe is now closed and Claridges has lost its star.

UPDATE November 2010 : A friends recent visit to Royal Hospital Road, confirmed that the restaurant is still delivering outstanding traditional french haute cuisine and first class service.

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK