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.

Farewell to Chris Staines @ the Foliage

Had my last meal at my favourite London restaurant the Foliage with Chris Staines as Head Chef. Chris was in the last week of his 3 months notice before he moves onto pastures new. Heston Blumenthal will open up his first London restaurant in its place in the Mandarin Oriental in a  years time.

What amazed me was that even in his last week Chris was producing simply breathtakingly stunning dishes…Respect.

Over the years I’ve  had some fantastic meals at the Foliage. In fact I use it as a benchmark to judge every other restaurant I visit. The service there is exceptional and the way Chris uses flavour and texture is the mark of a true artist. I suspect that the much larger replacement restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental will not live up to the high standard set by Chris or indeed Heston at the Fat Duck.

So many celebrity chefs are going down the “franchise” route, with disastrous results. The Abode chain (Micheal Caines) being a prime example and don’t get me started on how awful Harveys is (John Burton Race).

I’d like to thank Chris and his team at the Foliage for giving us many memorable meals (It was my experience of eating at the Foliage that got me interested in food) and to wish him the very best for the future. I just wish he was staying in London as his talent will be sorely missed.

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 9

Ambience 7

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UPDATE : Chris Staines is now Head Chef at the Allium Brasserie in Bath.

Abode – not so inviting!

Before I visited Abode in Canterbury, I had read a  review by a well known food critic which I thought was a bit harsh, this is after all one of Michael Caines projects.  Boy was I wrong, if anything he was being too kind!

When we arrived we were left waiting for what seemed an age as there was no staff in the dining room. Not a good start.

The food when it arrived was totally underwhelming, some of it was just downright unpleasant.  One desert tasted like play doh© and another tasted like cigarette ash.

The kitchen also recently came under criticism from other sources, see Caterersearch.

The service was in general chaotic. What was particularly hard to swallow was that they charged London Michelin star prices. You would get better value taking the train to London than eating here. Sadly another “Faux Gourmet” experience to chalk up.

Abode apparently merits 2 AA Rosettes – the definition for this is “Innovation, greater technical skill and more consistency and judgement in combining and balancing ingredients are all needed at this level.”

On leaving our opinion was that the only talent there was the busker playing outside.

Michael Caines Restaurant at ABode on Urbanspoon

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