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Michelin Star Eludes Manchester Again: Response

Jonathan Schofield doesn't really care, Mark Garner (Gordo) Responds To Michelin Editor

Published on September 25th 2014.

Michelin Star Eludes Manchester Again: Response

THE FRENCH at the Midland Hotel gained a Michelin star in 1974. Since then - for those who care - it's been forty years of hurt in Manchester.

And for Michelin star gazers in 2015 it's another cloudy night in the capital of the North.

But let's not worry too much, for the regular Mancunian diner we've never had it so good. 

As revealed here there are no stars for Manchester despite the reputation of places such as The French, a restaurant once more in the limelight, through the efforts of Simon Rogan (pictured above) and Adam Reid.

For Aiden Bryne and Manchester House who's stated objective was a star, it's another bath of cold water. 

But let's not worry too much, while a Michelin star restaurant is good for prestige in tourist literature and for promoting the city at international conferences, for the regular Mancunian diner we've never had it so good.

The FrenchThe French

The range, variety and quality of the Manchester food offer is astonishing.

A visit to any comparably sized European city reveals this in about ten minutes. This writer on Wednesday night discovered a new favourite in Hunan restaurant in Chinatown that will never in any conceivable universe be on the Michelin radar but was superb - review to follow. Delight is round every corner if you've got eyes to see and mouth to fill. Just look at this list in the recent Good Food Guide article we posted.

The whole Michelin game has become a distraction, annoying.

The annual will-we won't-we get a star is the food equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest, nobody knows why they pay attention but for some reason they do. 

As Jay Rayner has already written today: 'Manchester restaurant watchers shouldn't care (though they will)'.


Now back to the Hunan... and all the other superb restaurants and operators in this city. Let's get on with our year. Ed.

Mark Garner (Gordo) Responds:

No Michelin stars for Manchester yet again... are Michelin right, or wrong? Do they just hate Manchester? Are Michelin biased in some way? Or are our restaurants just not good enough?

I have spent thirty one years eating in restaurants at the high and low end; I walked into my very first starred restaurant in 1984, in Reims, France. Gerard Boyer's three star Les Creyères blew my socks off.

Since then, I have built a career from eating in them. The question I am asked most in Manchester is why we do not have a starred restaurant here in the city?Up until last year my answer had been, "because we haven't got one that's good enough."

Today this has changed, we have two: The French at the Midland and Manchester House. Both stunning in different ways. For neither to have won a star this time around is a travesty.

Why? Manchester House ticks every box, Aiden Byrne is cooking at the peak of his skills, this guy won a star when he was twelve. Well, twenty-odd. His brigade are superb, the food is so well balanced and exciting it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Recently, myself and a colleague scored four dishes out of nine or so at 10/10. But for some reason the Michelin inspector snubbed arguably the most entertaining all round dining experience north of Birmingham.

Bit too flash for you, Mrs. Michelin?

Now The French. Again, a brigade, overseen by multi-starred Simon Rogan, bringing such elegant flavours and put together on the plate in such a way that Matisse would be proud. All day long these guys were and still are, worthy of a star.

But these are my opinions as a devout Mancunian. So perhaps just sour grapes on my part?

Ladies and gentlemen, I beg to differ. Let me put this to Mrs. Michelin, the UK gaffer, Rebecca Burr. The only differences between Rogan's Claridge's restaurant Fera and The French are as follows: Opulence, Fera is more comfortable. Location, Fera is down in that there there London. Influence, it resides within a hotel group with huge foodie clout in the South.

Now, what's the same? Rogan owns both The French and Fera, he is, of course, the two star chef at L'Enclume. I have eaten in both the French and Fera. The front of house are neck and neck. Service and presentation are a dream in both. The food? I for one can't score any differences; the menus are virtually identical in structure, ingredients and cooking. Both score 9/10 in my book.

So why, Mrs Burr, have you awarded Fera a star and not The French? Never mind why not Manchester House.

I think I have the answer. It's payback for the BBC's Restaurant Wars (a three part documentary based in Manchester which saw chefs Simon Rogan and Aiden Byrne pitch The French vs Manchester House, both chasing Michelin stars and prestige. Ed.). I bet you hated every minute of that TV programme, didn't you missus?

Stick to the south, Luv, it's a deal more suited to you. We'll be fine without you and that snotty red book.

Mark Garner (Gordo)

Publisher and Proprietor of The Confidentials.

You can follow @JonathSchofield and @GordoManchester on twitter.

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42 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

The fact that they give Fera a star after just five months of opening, whilst overlooking The French again demonstrates exactly what a farce the Michelin system is.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

Not really, Rogan has been at Fera for a solid 5 months whilst he handed over the kitchen in Manchester to his understudies within weeks and was never there full time - more of a hand holding consultancy role. The French suffered because the chance to take over Claridges was too big an opportunity to miss and MCR becomes the one left behind.

GordoSeptember 25th 2014.

Anon, I don't agree with the outcome of your point. As I say, the fact is you can"t slide a playing card in between the two, which shows the strength of Rogans team at The French.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

In the last year or so, i've eaten at L'Enclume, The French (twice) and Fera. There was very little between them, but if forced to rank them then Fera would be a close third of three (with L'Enclume top). If The French were in London, it would have received a star, without a doubt.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

Nonsense, had a star been awarded to either or both you'd be the first to be singing from the roof tops - don't try to make out it doesn't matter to you. Great food scene? Do me a favour.

Poster BoySeptember 25th 2014.

In football parlance, this article is known as "taking the positives..."

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

Birmingham has 4 stars - Manchester none. The reason? Manchester isnt home to chefs of the calibre of a Glynn Purnell, Luke Tipping or Richard Turner cooking day in day out in the city. The French has Simon Rogan working as a glorified consultant 200 miles away and Aiden Byrne doesnt seem to know what he wants MCR House to be.

Y.G.R. ErskineSeptember 25th 2014.

There is absolutely no explanation for Simon Rogan not being awarded a Michelin star at The French AGAIN! I have eaten here and L'Enclume, and aside from dodgy carpet at The French, you can't separate the quality of the food. We may have some bloody good restaurants but to not be recognised again is seriously wrong. Jay Rayner may say who cares, as an adopted Mancunian who is very proud of this city and food scene, I care! So disappointed...

Burt CodeineSeptember 25th 2014.

Perhaps I was right to polish up my agenda bell. For a city that's arguably England's '2nd City' in a lot of areas, something's not right about us not having any Michelin stars. Paul Kitching managed to maintain one for a good few years in South Manchester (and runs one again in Edinburgh) and a host of other cities in the UK have them on their CV...Tokyo has 208 for Christ's sake! This city has a host of wide ranging eateries, but I feel that missing out (whatever you think of the guide) is another stick to clonk on Manchester's head (and there are few chances to do that in Manchester these days).

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

I find it absolutely astonishing that The French has not been awarded a star. On any evidence-based objective test it has to be well over the line. And Manchester House is certainly pushing into the 1 star class. I say this on the basis of fairly extensive personal experience. In fact I have just returned from a short holiday in France. One or two of the restaurants I went in which had a single star fell (in my view) significantly below the standards of The French or Manchester House. Something seems rotten in the State of Michelin.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

I have eaten at both the French and Manchester House. I was astonished by the food in both establishments but there were one or two niggling things (completely unrelated to the food) which at the time I did think would put the inspectors off. For one, the toilets in the Midland need a complete overhaul - whilst I appreciate they are for general use in the hotel, they are not very nice and not what you would expect when visiting somewhere with a Star (I compare these to other hotels with starred restaurants such as the Chester Grosvenor, Northcote or Holbeck Ghyll). A little thing, maybe, but it has really stuck with me. The food is fantastic in both restaurants though.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoSeptember 25th 2014.

good point

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

Except that according to Rebecca Burr giving an interview in the Telegraph "its all about the food, food, food ". So presumably the scoring was based on.... the food. So on that basis I remain yours sincerely, baffled....

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

That whole interview was just a mass of contradictions.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

I think they give a food star and a luxury rating which covers things like the bogs. both restaurants can be great and deserving but maybe not every dish is there or maybe their not as consistent as they need to be.

AnonymousSeptember 26th 2014.

By the way, the thing which stuck with me about Manchester House (I realise I did not mention this in my original post) was that when we were called from the bar to the restaurant we had to share the lift with a cleaner and their bin bag of rubbish. Hardly screamed luxury.

Georgina Hague shared this on Facebook on September 25th 2014.
AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

In NYC over Xmas last yr we ate at a few 1 star places. Noticably the Breslin and Minnetta Tavern were good "gastropub" style food. Just good, not great or amazing. I couldnt really place them better than that. The Breslin even has waiters in Converse trainers and check shirts. What it shows is that with Michelin there is no universal standard and it boils down to fads/opinions and what is the flavour of the day. Never mind. Maybe next yr..........

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

Beyond embarrassing for Manchester. The reaction I mean!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

How so? We have two exceptional restaurants here, which people are proud to have in the city, who have been passed over for accolades in what is a pretty baffling (particularly in the case of The French) decision.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

How so? Well I think Dave Haslam summed up the reaction perfectly this morning :- “No Michelin Star for any local restaurant. So what? Get a grip Manchester. Begging to be loved is so undignified.”

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2014.

It's not about 'begging to be loved', it's about recognition that is deserved.

AnonymousSeptember 26th 2014.

It's clear both restaurants are incredible for food and service but the stars will come when they've settled into their environment more...especially in the case of The French. Despite the "food, food, food" comment, in reality, its more likely about the offering as a whole. The entrance has been opposite a building site for over a year so until the redevelopment is complete and therefore the setting, all the Michelin star boxes haven't been ticked yet. Next year I hope.

Burt CodeineSeptember 26th 2014.

Sat Bains: Two stars under a flyover sat in an industrial estate in Nottingham. Not washing with me. Something else.

Manci DoodleSeptember 26th 2014.

There is no conspiracy against Manchester. There is widespread consensus amongst all the food establishment beyond this city that Mcr food is nothing special. The only people who rave about Mcr restaurants are....Mcr restaurants and their Mcr media friends. How many times do you have to be told this by how many different good guides and reviewers? This city punches above its weight in some things eg football but punches well below its weight in the area of serious food. The 2 most obvious ways view Mcr's humilation in food are to compare with London where there are dozens of restaurants better than anything in Mcr and then even worse is the comparison with other parts of northern England such as Lake District or the lowly little town of Ludlow.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 26th 2014.

The French received an 8/10 in the Good Food Guide, and was ranked number 14 in the country. It's also had numerous positive reviews, including the likes of Giles Coren. Your 'consensus' appears to be nonsense.

AnonymousSeptember 26th 2014.

The French received an 8/10 in the Good Food Guide, and was ranked number 14 in the country. It's also had numerous positive reviews, including the likes of Giles Coren. Your 'consensus' appears to be nonsense.

James SmithSeptember 28th 2014.

I recently ate at a restaurant near tower bridge and the menu was practically lancastrian. The Michelin thing is a joke, who cares, they are making fools of themselves, a kebab stand in mayfair would get a star. Move on, not bothered, leave em to it.

Manci DoodleSeptember 26th 2014.

Gordo I think you are wrong to round on Mrs Michelin for not rating Manchester House as highly as you do. You are entitled to your opinion and I am sure your opinions are well informed. But you surely recognise that most reviewers disagree with you. Celebrity writers like Rayner and Gill have been hostile about this place. Good Food guide was lukewarm. So it is you that it out on a limb - not Mrs Michelin.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 26th 2014.

Rayner was extremely positive about the food, which is what Burr says is the only thing that matters. Why do you feel the need to make misleading statements to support your clearly negative personal view?

Mark GarnerSeptember 27th 2014.

You confuse me Manci Doodle. "most reviewers disagree with you?" who are they? Rayner nor Gill do. One silly woman who writes for The Grauniad is the only one I believe. Have you eaten in The French and Fera? Do you have any informed opinions?

Mark GarnerSeptember 27th 2014.

For Gill, read Coren. Bear in mind MD, the london lot bloody hate being forced up north by their editors, they are screaming and kicking all the way up.

Christopher GrievesSeptember 27th 2014.

I believe this to be a storm in a tea (Earl Grey, slice of lemon) cup. A proud Mancunian through and through.. I think we have been through worse. Northcote has the distinct advantage of foraging in it's own grounds .. Somehow the thought of a Manchester restaurant trying to compete makes me smile. Perhaps time to embrace the local provenance? I sense a new contender: "The Skip" (cg)

Manci DoodleSeptember 27th 2014.

The French is a very good hotel restaurant of its type. I think it deserves the good reviews it has earned. There are a small number of other places I rate such as Aumbry. If we were talking about a small town in a remote region that would be fair enough. Manchester is a city region of c 3m people with real wealth and confidence about its place in the world. In Manchester I would expect far more. The biggest Michelin indictment of Mcr food is not the lack of a starred restaurant. That is bad enough. Far worse is the number of Michelin Guide listed restaurants. There are only 31 going up to a radius of 12 miles from the city centre. London has 631. This summer I went to Swiss village of 5000 with more Michelin listed restaurants than Mcr. Mcr's food offering is lacking at several levels, not just at the fine dining level. Look at the Good Pub guide and see how few gastro pubs they think are worth including in Mcr. Do you want me to go through all the different categories of food and set out how far Mcr falls short? Manchester's food and drink industry is improving but there is a long, long way to go.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 27th 2014.

I agree with this actually. Too many places are over priced for what they offer, which often leaves me feeling unsatisfied. That is not to say that the French didn't deserve a Michelin star. There can be no rational explanation for Rogan's other restaurants receiving a star but his Manchester one not.

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2014.

'Michelin Star Eludes Manchester Again"? Have you heard you lot? Does it really matter? All that's whined about on Mancon, let alone the chaos and madness in this world and you think it's a 'scandal' that some f***ing restaurant in Manchester hasn't been given an award? FFS!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
rinkydinkSeptember 27th 2014.

Agreed. And why some people think they need the approval of so-called experts to justify their existence is beyond me. If you like the restaurant, just eat there as regularly as you can and hope that enough other people agree to keep it open. The rest - accreditations, awards, it's all bollocks

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2014.

Begging for an award? How undignified! Obviously not Mancunians.

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2014.

Obviously such things matter "a lot" to Manchester's New Labour in-crowd? I.e. your typical Man Con poster!

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2014.

@above I wouldn't know about that but I'd assume an award goes hand in hand with a price increase and an influx of nobby diners.

Manci DoodleSeptember 29th 2014.

My last comment. Michelin is far from perfect and some would say its authority is in decline. But it is the most reliable yardstick for measuring the higher end food offering of any city. There will be disputes about particular restaurants but this guide gives a pretty good indication of the scale and quality of food from top end fine dining down to decent pub food. Their listings show that Mcr is quite a way behind say Birmingham and Edinburgh. Both places have more listings and a handful of starred restaurants. Mcr rates higher than Hull or Glasgow. I think that is about right. Maybe the French will get a star even though its celebrity chef is generally 200 miles away. But that in itself will not promote Mcr very far up the league of food cities in this country, where it languishes way below where it should be. Nor will the rudeness of this website to the people who run Michelin.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2014.

As a Londoner who has eaten in the French many times. Yes the toilets are not good but the food rating is higher in the good food guide than the three starred Waterside? I have been to the waterside and think it is sublime however the also one starred Pollen street social has no where near as good food as the French...better atmosphere yes...food no way. So simply not fair the French did not win a star I feel sorry for their excellent hardworking staff.

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