Words: Shamim de Brún
Words: Shamim de Brún
The 2023 Michelin Guide was a very conservative guide despite whispers of a French-style shake-up. The French guide caused quite a stir recently, with twenty-five legacy restaurants losing their stars.
Dublin managed to hold onto all of its Michelin Stars but gained no new accolades. Frankly, Cork stole the show this year, reigniting the decades-old friendly rivalry between the capital and rebel county.
Dede at The Customs House in Baltimore, Co Cork, received its second Michelin Star. The restaurant, headed by Ahmet Dede and Maria Archer, impressed the Michelin man with their “sophisticated modern dishes.” Their all-Turkish kitchen team combines Irish ingredients with flavours from their native country to create a truly mind-bending taste experience. Anyone who has eaten there this year would tell you this level-up is not a surprise. But they did not dominate column inches in the run-up to the announcement.
Then there was Terre at the Castlemartyr Resort hotel, which debuted with one star. Although rumours were swirling that they were gunning for two stars, they still managed to make a great impression, with French chef Vincent Crepel leading the charge.
Irish restaurants received special awards. The service and welcome award given to Declan Maxwell of Spitalfields in Dublin 8. This award honours only one business between Ireland and the UK every year. Basically, it means that Spittlefields has the best service team of anyone else in the Guide this year, which is a huge feat. And let’s not forget about the mentor award, which went to chef and restaurateur Michael Deane of Eipic in Belfast.
The absence of transparent, formal criteria for awarding stars and the anonymous, often monthly, restaurant visits by highly trained Michelin inspectors have meant the organization is sometimes viewed as the culinary equivalent of a secret service. One thing is clear: eateries that focus on the food rather than the surroundings tend to collect stars like Mario.
There’s a longstanding belief in Ireland that the Michelin Man holds them to a higher standard than the UK or New York. But without the disposable income and time to eat repeatedly at multiple three-star experiences, who can say for sure?
The expectation that Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen would land three Michelin stars was certainly widely touted. Not just in Ireland but overseas. Several UK chefs ominously said that its time had come. People had read this prediction so many times it was thought they had already been informed in advance of their win. But this was just salaciously rumour-mongering.
It really felt like our Italia 90. We were so close we could taste it, but it just didn’t happen on the day.
According to a Michelin representative in an interview with The Irish Times, to become a three-star restaurant is to basically say that it’s one of the best restaurants in the world. It’s a restaurant that will provide an incredible experience, not just in the cuisine but in everything else that goes with it. So when they make these decisions, they have to be very, very sure of their decision. So the jump from two to three in a year might be too much for Michelin to stand behind.
Reluctantly, we’ll have to wait to see when Ireland is finally awarded its first three-Michelin star accolade. But hey, there’s always next year, right?
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