After considerable pre-ceremony scrutiny, the 2021 Michelin guide for the UK and Ireland has been released, with the tyre company proving to be true to its word with a list that’s largely celebratory of cooking here and across the Irish sea.
While questions had been raised over what purpose a 2021 guide would serve, Michelin insisted they wanted to support the ailing hospitality industry. "We want to shine a light on our industry, to keep people talking about it in the media and remind everyone of what we have, and to bring news of our great restaurants to a global audience.
“And it’s not just the restaurants themselves. By celebrating our wonderful industry we also recognise all those who depend upon it and are part of the supply chain, from bakers and butchers, to farmers and fishermen. During our launch we will be acknowledging the great work being done in sustainable gastronomy, as well as highlighting great service, recognising young talent and saluting those who mentor others.”
So the night proved; throughout the tone was one that bobbed gently between praising the resilience of restaurateurs, chefs and their teams and one that marked the hardships that have arisen from near enough a year of lockdowns and curfews, socially-distanced dining rooms and costly al fresco terraces.
While there were some losers – not announced, simply quietly updated on Michelin’s website – this was a happy evening, one of a few changes and some new faces. Below is how London’s restaurants stack up after this year’s awards.
New three star restaurants
Michelin defines three star restaurants as those with “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught A longstanding two-star spot, after a decade Darroze claimed her third star. Darroze, who was in open shock at receiving the star, initially appeared speechless but said during the broadcast she was "thinking of all the women working in kitchens, and I want to tell them what is possible. Just believe in yourself, and anything can happen.” Her restaurant is classically French in style, and does fine-dining in the most traditional sense. Carlos Place, W1K, the-connaught.co.uk
Core by Clare Smyth Nothing short of extraordinary. While there had been some talk of Core picking up its third star last year, after it debuted in 2019 guide with two stars, the achievement now is still remarkable, given the place only opened in late 2017. Smyth has Michelin pedigree, having run Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea between 2012-16, holding three stars. Core tends to offer a tight focus on one or two ingredients in a plate, managing to extract vivid flavour from each. It is modern British in style. 92 Kensington Park Road, W11, corebyclaresmyth.com
New two star restaurants
Michelin defines two star restaurants as those with “excellent cooking, worth a detour.”
A Wong A very welcome watershed moment as Andrew Wong’s exceptional restaurant becomes the first two star Chinese restaurant in the country. It offers an exploration of the multifaceted types of cooking that can vary so dramatically across China. The news will likely have been especially welcome to Wong, who had to close his restaurant in the Bloomberg Arcade, Kym’s, owing to pandemic. 70 Wilton Road, SW1V, awong.co.uk
Da Terra Paulo Airaudo and Rafael Cagali’s Hackney home offers fusion food, though not in that dreadful way that tarnished the tail end of the 2000s. The pair, who both once worked at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, offer “Latin American cuisine with Italian inspiration”. It’s clearly working, with the restaurant picking up its first star only last year. Could the 2022 guide bring another leap up the ladder? 8 Patriot Square, E2, daterra.co.uk
Restaurant Story Tom Sellers is famously protective of Story, so it was no surprise to see him so thrilled to win his second star. Story takes British ingredients and re-imagines them with inspiration; it’s most famous dish for years has been a beef dripping candle that drips over sourdough. Story was the restaurant to be in in the mid twenty-teens, and Sellers has clearly been putting the work in to push the place further. 199 Tooley Street, SE1, restaurantstory.co.uk
New one star restaurants
Michelin defines one star restaurants as those offering “very good cooking in its category.”
Casa Fofó A neighbourhood spot, but a serious one. Neatly done, detailed cooking with a focus on the seasons. Lots of low-intervention wine.158 Sandringham Road, E8, casafofolondon.co.uk
Cornerstone Tom Brown’s seafood spot with a legion of loyal fans; you come for the crumpet and stay for the fish kiev. First touted to get a star in 2018. 3 Prince Edward Road, E9, cornerstonehackney.com
Sola Dean Street offers all sorts of thrills, but until Sola, fine dining was not one of them. After a career of the kind of Spanish-inflected comfort food that is all squishy and gooey and gorgeous, Victor Garvey decided to go right to the high end, with a sort-of Californian, sort-of Japanese style of cooking. There’s an emphasis on well-sourced ingredients often rarely seen in UK kitchens. 64 Dean Street, W1D, solasoho.com
Davies and Brook For a man who’s New York place, Eleven Madison Park, was routinely referred to as “the best restaurant in the world,” Daniel Humm arrived in Claridge’s with a humble aim – to simply “make it nice”. And so he did, with some extraordinary plates of food and a team trained to a tee. Brook Street, W1K, claridges.co.uk
Benares A victim of the 2020 stars cull, Michelin has given Benares its star back. This is high-end Indian, but presently with real verve and its own distinct sense of style. 12a Berkeley Square, W1J, benaresrestaurant.com
Muse by Tom Aikens Aikens was open about his Michelin ambitions, so it’s nice to see them realised here: the menu launched to a little ridicule, but Aikens batted it off and quickly was the one laughing, as the rave reviews piled up. Inspired by his own life, come for original dishes inspired by the chef’s life. 38 Groom Place, SW1X, musebytomaikens.co.uk
Behind This London Fields’ spot managed to come to life last year, despite the madness of everything, and has clearly made a tremendous impression. The only restaurant on this list the Standard hasn’t visited, it’s said to offer exceptional seafood and counter dining. Amazingly, it’s won its star after a mere 20 days trading; Michelin must have been quick. 20 Sidworth Street, E8, behindrestaurant.co.uk
Bib Gourmands and green stars
The "Bibs" are generally considered Michelin’s second-highest award, though they themselves don’t make that distinction. Bib Gourmands are defined as "restaurants which offer good quality, good value cooking". Generally, Bibs are the sort of places that one can afford to eat at regularly, and be assured there’ll always be a good meal. The new Bibs this year are: Mo Diner, Fallow, Flor, Legare, Paradise, Peckham Cellars, Volta do Mar.
The new green stars are awarded to restaurants making particular efforts to be sustainable and minimise their environmental impact. Of the 23 announced this year, four come from London: the Oxo Tower Brasserie, Richmond’s Petersham Nurseries, Silo and Tredwells.