Surrey's Michelin starred restaurants 2008
PUBLISHED: 10:58 14 May 2010 | UPDATED: 15:09 20 February 2013
Michelin stars have long been the jewel in the crown for any ambitious restaurateur. With the release of 2008's Michelin Guide, MATTHEW WILLIAMS finds out how Surrey's restaurants have fared this year
Originally published in March 2008
Michelin stars have long been the jewel in the crown for any ambitious restaurateur. With the release of 2008's Michelin Guide, MATTHEW WILLIAMS finds out how Surrey's restaurants have fared this year. Photos by Pete Gardner
In August 1900, a time when there were only 3,500 cars in the whole of France, a free leaflet was distributed to chauffeurs and mechanics in the country. The guide offered advice on changing tyres, filling the tank and possible places to get your head down for a good night's sleep. Just over a century later, The Michelin Guide is the gastronomical beacon de rigueur.
In a nutshell, anonymous inspectors visit restaurants and hotels across the country in search of the best, and this year, only a select 122 eateries across the whole of Great Britain and Ireland have maintained or achieved a one star rating or above.
Surrey's star restaurants
So, while there are many fantastic restaurants across the county, this year it is just three that carry the Surrey culinary banner with a one star rating: Drake's in Ripley; Drakes on the Pond in Abinger Hammer; and The Glasshouse in Kew. Special mention must also go to The Westerly in Reigate, which in its first year has achieved a Bib Gourmand award - a status awarded to the best restaurants that can offer a full three-course meal for under 28.
"Obviously, Surrey is not a large county, so its representation is probably about par for the course," says the editor of The Michelin Guide, Derek Bulmer. "I've edited the guide for ten years and was an inspector beforehand, and in my time, I would say that numbers in Surrey have stayed roughly the same.
"However, restaurants in the county used to be far more formal operations, very stuffy black tie type affairs; whereas recent years have seen them relaxing a little, which I think is a good thing."
Trend towards locally sourced food
This year, restaurant trends have also seen a move towards more locally sourced food and this is largely instigated by the raised awareness amongst customers.
"There is a lot more about food on TV, people have become more discerning and they want to know where what they eat is coming from" continues Derek. "More and more restaurants are becoming increasingly proud to list their suppliers on the menu."
There is a common misconception that the star rating equates to the overall luxury of a restaurant, but the ratings don't actually take into account the more aesthetic aspects (this is left to Michelin's comfort rating - always a score of one to five), they purely concentrate on what is served up on the plate. This isn't just food; this is Michelin starred food
The first stars were awarded in 1926 and they often follow chefs around, as has occurred with two of Surrey's star restaurants, Drake's and Drakes on the Pond, both of which have involved chef Steve Drake (more from whom later).
"It is slightly unusual for a restaurant to retain their star status when their chef moves on," continues Derek. "It says a lot for the people at Drakes on the Pond that they have retained their stars.
"It is more common for a chef to move to a new restaurant and gain a star, and his old one to lose theirs, because it is so much to do with the chef's talent and inspiration."
So, now we know what it stands for, what does the Michelin star mean to the people in the firing line?
We spoke to the chefs and owners behind Surrey's three top restaurants to find out what is needed to achieve this prestigious mark
What does it all mean?
Only five percent of the restaurants in the Michelin selection have stars. Restaurants may be awarded up to three stars:
- One star is awarded for a 'very good restaurant in its category'
- Two stars for 'excellent, worth a detour'
- Three stars for 'exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey'
Bib Gourmand :
Named after the cartoon that the world famous Michelin Man character was based on, Bib Gourmands are awarded to restaurants offering a full three course meal for under 28
Drakes on the Pond, Abinger Hammer
Set in the idyllic village of Abinger Hammer, Drakes on the Pond is owned and run by John Morris and Tracey Honeysett. They originally gained their Michelin star in 2003 when Steve Drake was the head chef, and even though he has moved on, they haven't looked back since.
"Isn't it amazing? To think that originally we thought it was a bit of a dream! Yet here we are, sixth year in a row," says Tracey. "The star is so important to get and then keep hold of. It confirms, for us, that all the effort we put in every day is recognised and customers hold it in such high regard. It introduces a whole different market.
"To maintain such a high standard and keep the star, you have to make sure that everybody's experience is special so it does make you work harder. Plus, the inspections by Michelin are not announced, so it certainly keeps everyone on their toes."
- Drakes on the Pond, Dorking Road,Abinger Hammer: 01306 731174
Steve Drake has made quite an impression on the Surrey restaurant scene. The chef and owner of Drake's, in Ripley, appears to have the golden touch when it comes to Michelin stars.
"You can't really cheat the system," explains Steve. "You could stand there and see someone sat at a table for one and pull out all the stops for them, if you think they're an inspector, but if they return four weeks later as part of a group and don't receive the same service then they are probably going to feel cheated.
"Of course, a star is amazing for anyone. You look at this small list of restaurants from the whole of Britain, and to find your name on it is a very special feeling. The most important thing is fantastic food. There are no cutting corners and no just trying to pack the place out wall to wall for the short-term gain. You need passion, energy and desire - otherwise it just wouldn't be any fun! Next up, why not two stars?"
- Drake's, The Clock House, High Street, Ripley: 01483 224777
The Glasshouse, Kew
Restaurant manager Patra Panas originally joined head chef Anthony Boyd at The Glasshouse in Kew as a part-time receptionist when it first opened in 1999. Three years later, the restaurant achieved a Michelin star and has maintained this ever since.
"A Michelin star is a high accolade and, yes, it does bring business to the restaurant, especially people from all over Europe and not just the UK," says Patra. "To ensure that we maintain the high standards we set, we always make sure we have great product knowledge and, of course, put in the hard work needed. We also use the best produce available. There are no plans for two stars as we want to maintain the relaxed atmosphere we currently have."
The Glasshouse's wine list is also specifically highlighted by the Michelin Guide as particularly interesting. Head sommelier Emmanuel Hardonniere's 500 bin selection ranges from 15 for a bottle of house Bergerac to 450 for Petrus '94.
- The Glasshouse, 14 Station Parade, Kew: 020 8940 6777
Interview with an Inspector
What's the first thing you look at when you visit an establishment?
I look at the same things every customer does; the faade, the immediate surroundings and the quality of the upkeep. I also look at the menu. If it's long, that could mean that all the products aren't fresh and some are probably frozen. If, on the contrary, it's short, with just a few dishes on a handwritten blackboard, that could mean that the chef went to the market that morning to select the ingredients.
How do you judge the cuisine?
First, I judge the quality of the ingredients, regardless of what they are. You can tell a product that's been defrosted from a fresh one, or a sauce made that morning from one made three or four days earlier and kept in the refrigerator. A restaurant with one or more stars doesn't necessarily have to serve luxury products, but it does have to serve products that are very fresh and of excellent quality.
It must be quite hard remaining anonymous?
It's quite rare for me to be spotted. The image of the paunchy grey-haired inspector with a copy of The Michelin Guide in the back of the car, constantly scribbling down notes in a little pad next to his plate, comes from that French movie L'Aile ou la Cuisse, where Louis de Funs plays a famous restaurant critic. In reality we're nothing like that. The average age for an inspector is about 40, and there are both men and women, some very slim some perhaps a little less slim!
Tell us how the stars are awarded each year?
We meet several times a year - the inspectors, the editor of the Michelin Guide and the director. During the 'star' meetings, we discuss our different restaurant tests, review the different places where we ate and compare our inspection reports. Then, together, we decide whether to give one or more stars to an establishment.
For more great ideas for eating out in Surrey,
check out our archive of Surrey Life restaurant reviews