Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A Stellar Performance (except NI)

The United Kingdom, except Northern Ireland, has been awarded a record number of Michelin Stars.

A mere four establishments (all in or near London) are awarded three Stars.

Scotland has one Two Star restaurant; and Eire also has a two-star establishment.

If I'm counting correctly, Scotland has fourteen one-star restaurants; and Wales, four; whereas the Irish Republic has five places with one star.

I know and believe that we, in Ulster, have some of the finest game, beef and poultry; and some splendid establishments with wonderful locations.

So why are there no Michelin Star restaurants in Northern Ireland?


John Ferris said...

When Deane's had the flooding, they decided to reopen as more of a bistro (though they have now added 'The Circle' upstairs, which is fine dining) – less emphasis on getting a star. Does Northern Ireland have enough people willing to pay the money it takes to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant? Even then most Michelin starred places cost the owner money with other restaurants supplementing the main identity, and I believe Deane's is no different. Maybe in the modern world Michelin Stars no longer mean as much as they once did for the food buying public.

John Self said...

I always thought that Michael Deane had retained his star for his flagship establishment on Howard Street; clearly not. (Perhaps being closed for flooding affects one's chances...)

I remember when we had three, not so long ago. Deane's, Shanks at Blackwood Golf Club (until chef Robbie Millar died on the way home one night when his car hit a tree), and Oriel at Gilford, Co Armagh.

The last deserves special mention. The parents of friends of mine went there one night. When they asked for menus, they were told that 'chef will decide what you're eating tonight'! Sure enough they were delivered with meals of chef's choosing. In some sense this sounds not unreasonable - wouldn't we expect our host to decide what meal to serve if we were attending a dinner party? - but clearly for paying customers, it's insane. They didn't finish their meals and never went back. Nor, it would seem, did many others: the establishment was last seen 'closed for relocation' several years ago and has yet, as far as I am aware, to reappear!

John Self said...

Hm! Further investigation reveals that former chef and owner of the Oriel, Barry Smyth, can now be seen running 'Steak Night' at O'Toole's bar just outside Armagh, as well as teaching students and running the graduate restaurant at South Eastern Regional College's Newry Campus.

Owen Polley said...

Has Oregano in Ballyclare retained its Bib Gourmand?

John Self said...

The front page of the Belfast News, which has just landed on our doormat, confirms that Deane's lost its star this year, having held one since 1996.

Anonymous said...

John, you really should get your facts right before you blog!
Firstly, Michelin stars are not handed out like candy treats to well behaved chefs. In most cases it takes years of commitment, selfless dedication and serious resources to achieve a Michelin star and most chefs never come close. More importantly though, the key ingredient to this accolade is clientele who are appreciative of the mammoth effort taken to produce their meal and who are willing to pay that little bit more for it. Within the small population of Northern Ireland it has become evident in recent years that these type of diners are few and far between. It is therefore testament to the achievements of the 3 chefs who did achieve greatness all at the same time (and Paul Rankin who led the way).
Regarding The Oriel, and your 'no menu' comment, my husband and I dined there on many occasions and as far as I am aware, the only time when customers were not given a menu was on the very last night, the night the restaurant closed for good. On this occasion, guests were asked for preferences, dislikes etc and could pay what they felt the meal was worth at the end. The restaurant was an absolute gem and what Barry Smyth and his team achieved in a modest premises with limited resources is extremely admirable.
Did you ever dine there? I would detect a glee and willingness from you to 'get the boot in' to a restaurant and chef which you obviously know little about. I'm sure the decision to close after achieving so much was not taken lightly. The restaurant is sorely missed and has never been replaced, but it was Mr Smyths personal/family decision not to re-open and it is all too easy for illinformed bloggers to write condecending statements.
Barry is a consultant chef who assists many catering businesses and lectures at Southern Regional College. Please get your facts right before you blog!