At a time that restaurants continue to face the most challenging time of their lives, the newly-published Michelin Guide is proving a much-needed vote of confidence for the industry.
Its 2021 publication – purely online this year – proves that there is still plenty to celebrate across the nation and that includes in the North East.
Top restaurants in the region – several of which have turned to offering takeaways during their lockdown closures – are continuing to impress.
Among the big hitters picked out by Michelin inspectors is Hjem in Northumberland which they managed to review during the brief period it reopened when lockdown restrictions lifted last year – and the result is its first Michelin star: a huge boost for the Scandinavian-style restaurant.
Here is a round-up of the success stories in and around Newcastle – many of them guide regulars – which are being singled out for various awards plus mention of some other venues across the country which are earning a share of the spotlight.
Hjem – Michelin star
The award is made for ‘high quality cooking, worth a stop!’
The restaurant in Wall – whose name means ‘home’ in the dialects of owners Alex Nietosvuori from Sweden and his local partner Ally Thompson – is allocated its first Michelin star.
The online write-up says: “The setting in an English country inn might seem slightly at odds with the Nordic food but Ally and Alex’s first business together has been a hit from the start – so much so that securing a table isn’t easy.”
Making mention of “a sea of smiling faces and the smell of coal fires”, it adds: “Precise, original cooking combines a handful of local ingredients with Scandinavian techniques and an element of finesse.
“The menu is a surprise, with dishes arriving in quick succession and enthusiastically described by the chefs.”
Feathers Inn – Michelin Plate
This is an award for good cooking.
The guide says of this pub in Hedley on the Hill: “Constantly evolving menus highlight Northumbrian produce and everything is made in-house.”
Rat Inn – Michelin Plate
This 18th Century drovers’ inn in Anick has a daily-changing menu which the guide says “showcases good quality produce in interesting dishes; the Northumberland rib of beef ‘for two or more’ is a must”.
Potted Lobster – Michelin Plate
This Bamburgh bistro serves up classic dishes in large portions. “The squid and oysters are must-tries” says the guide.
The Staith House – Bib Gourmand
This is an award made for good quality, good value cooking.
“Daily changing dishes showcase Northumberland’s latest yield; the fish is smoked on-site,” says the guide of the North Shields Fish Quay restaurant.
House of Tides – Michelin Star
Within a Grade I-listed merchant’s house on the quayside, chef-owner Kenny Atkinson’s restaurant boasts “accomplished, creative dishes evolve as ingredients come into season, with only top quality produce being used”, says the guide.
“The attractively presented dishes are well-thought-out and flavours have plenty of depth – and there’s the occasional playful touch in evidence too.”
Broad Chare – Bib Gourmand
Taking its name from its location further along the quayside, the pub serves up – alongside 40 ales, several of them custom-made – a menu including, says the guide, Geordie Tapas, “an appealing ‘on toast’ selection, hearty daily specials and tasty nursery puddings”.
21 – Michelin Plate
“Menus offer a comprehensive array of confidently cooked classics,” says the guide of Terry Laybourne’s restaurant, adding “the ‘menu du jour’ is good value”.
The Restaurant – Michelin Plate
Jesmond Dene House’s restaurant lays claim to “‘simple dishes, done well; nothing tricksy, just honest flavours, locally-sourced produce and plenty of attention to detail” and this – says the guide – “perfectly sums it up”.
The Patricia – Michelin Plate
The Jesmond bistro, apparently named after the owner’s grandmother, has “tasty cooking” which displays Mediterranean influences and the wine list is good value, says the guide.
Bistro 46 – Michelin Plate
“The self-taught chef hunts and forages, using the local larder to full effect,” says the guide which suggests the bistro’s “passionately seasonal dishes will appeal to one and all”.
Route – Bib Gourmand
The guide says the quayside restaurant’s “regularly changing menus offer well-priced, gutsy small plates with punchy flavours and a British heart”.
Cook House – Michelin Plate
The container café created by food blogger Anna Hedworth in Foundry Lane has dinner as the main event, says the guide “with many of the vibrant, fiercely seasonal dishes cooked on the hibachi barbeque”.
Haveli – Bib Gourmand
The name means ‘grand house’ and this Ponteland restaurant reflects dishes from all over India. The guide says “try one of the chef’s signature curries” and adds: “Staff combine personality with professionalism.”
Trakol – Michelin Plate
The guide says this shipping container restaurant “in an enviable waterside location” (which also boasts a microbrewery) takes it name from the Swedish for ‘charcoal’ and its cooking takes place over an open fire.
It says its “bold, hearty dishes range from small plates to feasting options for two to share”.
Raby Hunt – two Michelin Star
Two stars are made for ‘excellent cooking, worth a detour!’
The restaurant is the proud owner of two stars and the guide says self-taught chef James Close’s “enticing, highly original menu is a showcase of precision, from a selection of snacks that reflect his global travels to signature dishes such as a seasonal salad of 48-52 top-notch ingredients, presented in a beguiling array of textures and temperatures”.
It adds: “To conclude, you’ll find some of the country’s most sublime desserts.”
Finbarr’s – Michelin Plate
At Aykley Heads House, in a converted farm building on the outskirts of Durham, this eatery serves up “hearty brasserie cooking suits the area well”.
The Muse in Yarm and The Bay Horse and The Orangery, both in Hurwurth, also earned the Michelin Plate.
Among the awards elsewhere around the UK are several new ones. The guide includes 17 new one-star restaurants – of which Hjem is one – as well as three new two-star restaurants and two which have earned a whopping three stars.
In total there are now 158 restaurants in the guide with one star; 20 with two stars and seven with three stars.
There are also 16 new Bib Gourmands among the 126 awards – made for restaurants offering good quality at a modest price – and a new award The Michelin Green Star for Sustainability makes its debut this year.
Speaking at Monday’s online launch of the guide, Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, said: “This has been a hugely challenging period for the hospitality industry and our thoughts remain with all those who have suffered from the pandemic and by the restrictions that have been put in place.”
He added: “The Michelin Guide is about so much more than recognising those at the top of their profession; it is about promoting the hospitality industry as a whole and we want to shine a light on the hard work, tenacity and commitment of chefs and restaurant teams.”
New three-star restaurants (London)
CORE by Clare Smyth
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
New two-star restaurants (London)
Da Terra in Bethnal Green (which won its first star just last year)
Story in Southwark
A. Wong in Victoria (which has become the first Chinese restaurant in the UK to achieve two stars)
New one-star restaurants
Hjem, Northumberland. The guide refers to a ‘little bit of Sweden in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall’
hide and fox, Saltwood
Outlaw’s New Road, Port Isaac
Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, Ripon
Latymer at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot
Pea Porridge, Bury St Edmunds
Casa Fofō, Dalston
SO|LA in Soho,
Davies and Brook in Mayfair,
Muse in Belgravia
Dede in Baltimore, Ireland
Cail Bruich, Glasgow
Four special awards were The Young Chef of the Year which went to Kray Treadwell of Birmingham’s 670 Grams restaurant; Chef Mentor given to Ross Lewis of Chapter One in Dublin; The Service and Welcome award received by Saul McConnell from Noble in Holywood and a Sommelier award which went toKarine Canevet of Maison Bleue in Bury St Edmunds.
Mr Poullennec added: “One day soon restaurants will reopen and we want to show all the potential customers out there that there is a fantastic choice of restaurants throughout the UK and Ireland from which to choose.
“With this digital guide, they can now start planning where they will be going when normal life resumes.”