Being an addict to all things internet and immediate, the opportunity to review and investigate the relevance of a yearly-published paper-based guide is a fascinating exercise in modernity meets quality.
Funnily enough the paradox between an food blogger and a food review publication is an odd one, but I found the difference in purpose key to how these two methods can in fact sit side by side.
Since the year 1900, The Michelin Guide has been advising travellers on the worthwhile places to visit, with 1926 seeing the first stars being awarded, and 1936 the mysterious criteria for attaining such sought-after star were released. Since then the guide has been published in numerous countries and is revered as the place to find the very best restaurants.
Reading through the guide I'm pleased to see some of my favourites, and interested to see many new ones that I'd like to plan to visit. The guide's tone is set with pleasant 3rd party authority, with the very best worthwhile restaurants receiving a few extra lines than normal, perhaps recommending signature dishes or reasons why stars are awarded.
Divided into regional area sections, while there's a hefty weighting on London it's good to see other parts of the country represented so well.
Happy to see Kentisbury Grange featured as we're off there soon for their much lauded 'Murder Mystery Weekend', and their Coach House restaurant also gets mention too. Good stuff - and good to see the guide is in line with my opinion.
I'm used to sites like tripadvisor and google to find the so called 'best' restaurants, but increasingly I'm becoming worried the people doing the reviews could either be knowledgeable or it could be their one time out of the home that year and they think KFC is a treat. So where to get this more authoritative view?
Well, blogs are great for people like me, who want the top foodie places, and ones that have only been open for a few days or weeks. Being first is what I love, so steer towards a method of finding such things. Bloggers and blogs are great for this.
However if I were to invite someone out for a meal and didn't want to risk it, I could be pretty sure the Michelin Guide would see me right.
Their 'Bib Gourmand' range of recommendations even means I might be able to afford it too! All meals in this classification are within a reasonable £28pp. Shikumen in Shepherds Bush is on that list and deservedly so; their take on quality Chinese food is a mix of authentic and pleasing customer expectations with outstanding in-house made dim-sum and crispy duck to die for.
There are those who laud Michelin as the epitome of the finest restaurants in the land, and there are those who are all too happy reminding people that France has 26 restaurants awarded 3 stars, with only 35 others being shared across the rest of the world. The guide was however started in France and to hold those French values in the style sought after by the inspectors can only be expected. I can't imagine someone searching for the best food in the US would use the same style of guide (namely there isn't a USA guide yet perhaps for this reason.)
So the Michelin Guide 2016 is a very good book to find out the opinion of well intentioned inspectors with specific criteria to measure all the best restaurants in Great Britain and Ireland.
The trouble with the guide for me however is twofold. Firstly my restaurant visitations are planned via a plethora of reviews, research into chefs and cuisines. The guide whilst showing a great multitude of restaurants, only dedicates a 5 page list out of its 1152 pages on recommended London Restaurant listings, so once I've found a name, I can search online for greater and more up-to-date detail than the book could hope to include - not exactly their fault, but a symptom of progressing and progressive modern media.
Secondly and perhaps more frustratingly the guide refers to itself as the 2016 guide. For something published once a year, to publish a 2016 guide is nothing short of a cheeky marketing ruse - in no way does the guide (nor could it) refer to advice on the 2016 performance of restaurants. The entire guide would seem more palatable if it professed to be a 'how it was' guide rather than a 'still relevant a year on' guide.
The guide does however repsresent a stability and influence seldom matched in today's fickle world of internet review sites, and for this it should be lauded. I'll certainly consult the guide when I'm next visiting another part of the country to see what they recommend. Good to have something on my shelf that's not a cook-book.
For interest, intrigue and a handy book to keep in your repetiore, click here