Monday 9 February 2015

Waiting for Michelin in 1974

Whenever a new Michelin guide is due, there always seems to be a flurry of interest among "foodies", restaurateurs and chefs, and it's easy to assume that this is a reflection of the modern obsession with all things food.  But that fascination and speculation has been around for years.

Recently Michelin UK added to their website a couple of articles reproduced from the Telegraph Magazine of 15th March 1974.

Someone at Michelin must have been rummaging through their archives and found a copy of The Telegraph colour supplement from 1974 introducing its readers to the idea of Michelin's red guide and making some predictions as to which restaurants might get stars.

The Piquant Foretaste of Stardom (Note that page 19 is repeated, initially out of sequence.)
The Maigrets of Haute Cuisine

I find them really rather fascinating, as a historical document in themselves, as a testament to how much things have changed, and yet also how so little has changed.

In the first article, I was particularly amused by Prue Leith quoted as saying "You have to be pretty awful not to get into The Good Food Guide" and rather perplexed as to why it refers to Albert Roux throughout as André Roux.

I remember the Stevensons' (no relation) Horn Of Plenty at Gulworthy, and Patrick Stevenson one night intoning that anyone who didn't like opera and model railways should have been put down at birth.

The interview with Michelin in the second article almost reads just like any interview with Michelin you ever read, save, maybe, for the occasional condescending dig at English cooking.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the Telegraph's predictions and see how accurate they were.  Very, as it turns out.

"Our experts consider it unlikely that any British establishment will be found deserving of two stars, let alone three."  Well, their experts were certainly right about that.

"As to numbers of one-star restaurants, our experts think it unlikely that they will number fewer than a dozen or more than 20."  Ah well, close: there were 22 stars awarded to UK restaurants in the 1974 Red Guide.

These are the restaurants they predicted would get one Michelin star when the 1974 red guide came out:

  • The Connaught Hotel ("the restaurant, not the grill room") - one star from 1974-1976, 2 from 1977-1981, then back down to 1 again.
  • Thornbury Castle - one star from 1974-1982
  • Le Gavroche - one star 1974-1976, 2 stars 1977-1981, 3 stars 1982-1991, then 2 stars again
  • La Toque Blanche - one star from 1974-76
  • Waterside Inn - 1 star from 1974-76, 2 from 1975-84, 3 stars from 1985.
  • Le Poulbot - one star 1974-79
  • Bell Inn, Aston Clinton - one star in 1974 which it lost in 1975 before regaining for 1976-79.
  • The Box Tree - 1 star from 1974-77, 2 stars 1978-1987
  • Horn of Plenty - 1 star from 1974-1983
  • Hintlesham Hall - 1 star from 1974-1982
  • Le Bressan - 1 star 1974-79
  • Wilton's - Had to wait till 1975 for a star, presumably when they deigned to return Michelin's questionnaire

The only two of those I'd not heard of were La Toque Blanche and Le Bressan, both in London.

These are the one-stars in 1974 that the Telegraph's experts didn't predict:
  • Hole in the Wall, Bath
  • Randalls, Brixham
  • Duck Inn, Canterbury
  • The French Restaurant, Midland Hotel, Manchester
  • Hotel de la Poste, Swavesey
  • Malmaison, Glasgow (the old BTH one, not the newer Michael Caines one!)
  • Carrier's, Islington
  • Le Coq Hardi, Kensington
  • Lee Ho Fook, Soho
  • Simpsons in the Strand
I had no idea there was a Chinese restaurant with a Michelin star in 1974!

You can see the full history of Michelin stars 1974-2015 for London here and for the rest of the United Kingdom here.

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