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Michelin Guide: Why has Manchester not got any stars?

By Bronwyn Jones
BBC News

image copyrightThe French by Simon Rogan
image captionThe French at the Midland Hotel was seen as a contender - it was the last to gain a Michelin star back in 1974

Michelin stars were awarded to 20 new restaurants across the UK on Monday - but Manchester missed out again. The last star awarded to a restaurant in the city was in 1974. So why does Manchester not have any top-rated restaurants - and does it really matter?

There is no doubt Manchester has a variety of great places to eat. And yet year after year it fails to make the Michelin grade, even as its smaller neighbours in Merseyside and Cheshire are recognised.

Some see it as a snub, denting the pride of an otherwise culturally ascendant city, while others say it simply does not matter.

"It doesn't make any sense" tweeted Aiden Byrne, chef at one of the city's big hopes, Manchester House.

image copyrightManchester House
image captionMerseyside-born chef Aiden Byrne had worked in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants before Manchester House

Another famous name from the city's food scene, Paul Heathcote, said the lack of approval from the Michelin reviewers was "incredibly important".

"I think it does matter greatly," he said. "These restaurants are an important part of the jigsaw that makes great cultural cities."

The Bolton-born former Michelin starred chef claimed that "for most people Manchester is the UK's second city" and high calibre restaurants were "equally important" as its other cultural treasures, such as the Whitworth Gallery, and nightlife.

In fact the city's rival for second city status - Birmingham - has marched off with five stars in the 2017 Michelin Guide.

"It needs to happen - even from Michelin's point of view," says Heathcote. "They have a gap in their map that is highlighted every year."

The last restaurant to gain entrance to the select Michelin Guide was The French, in the city's imposing Midland Hotel.

Here, the chef Simon Rogan has been striving to put the city on the fine dining map.

Rogan's two other restaurants - L'Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, and Fera, at Claridge's in London - both have at least one Michelin star. But not in Manchester.

image captionPaul Heathcote said the level of dedication needed to get a star was huge

But not all Mancunians are brooding over the guide's perceived slight.

"I deeply don't care" was the response of Jonathan Schofield, editor in chief at lifestyle magazine Manchester Confidential.

His take on the situation was clear from the publication's wry one-word article on the decision, asking: "Did Manchester finally make the grade?" I think you can guess the answer.

But should the city care?

"No - it should play to its strengths", he said, listing off the reams of cultural attractions Manchester offers.

"We shouldn't worry... we're not suffering for it - my city is far bigger than that."

He said foodies "are obsessed" with Michelin stars and certain chefs may feel snubbed but "we have fine dining - maybe not their version of it" in "the middle of the countryside where all you can hear is the clink of crockery against cutlery".

image copyrightThe French by Simon Rogan
image captionSimon Rogan's protégé Adam Reid is now in charge of the kitchen at revamped The French

Earning a star can, however, draw visitors into the city - including big spenders.

Simon Binns, What's On Editor at the Manchester Evening News, said having a star drives "high-end, high-spend" international tourism and it is "important to be on that food tourism map".

He thinks there is now an "odd love-hate" relationship between Michelin and Manchester that has developed from the city's "hope and expectation" being dashed year-on-year and that the city may "pretend" it does not care but "of course it does".

What made the Michelin Guide?

  • The 2017 guide had one new two star restaurant and 18 new one star restaurants
  • Altogether there are four three star establishments, 21 with two stars and 147 with one star
  • Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal regained three stars at his restaurant The Fat Duck in Berkshire
  • The nearest Michelin-starred restaurants to Manchester are Northcote in Langho, Lancashire; Fraiche in Prenton, Wirral and Fischer's in Bakewell, Derbyshire

"I don't know what they see in Birmingham that they don't see in Manchester," he said.

Mr Binns suggested the many "premium casual" venues in the city - that are not quite fine dining but are consistently impressive - might be capturing the market.

That variety was noted by editor of the guide for Great Britain and Ireland, Rebecca Burr, who praised the "richness" of city's food scene.

"Although Manchester doesn't have a Michelin Star, it has a varied and high quality food offer, from great tapas at El Gato Negro to modern Indian cooking at Asha's," she said.

El Gato Negro was one of only three in Greater Manchester to get a Michelin Bib Gourmand for "good value, good quality cooking".

But as the stars remain elusive for another year, Heathcote believes with the quality around, it "won't be long" now.

"Michelin is extremely cautious about making their first award to any restaurant" and will be "looking for consistency" he said.

"It's almost like a football team not conceding goals - eventually they will start winning".

image copyrightManchester House
image captionThe Manchester Food and Drink festival was in full swing as the Michelin awards were announced

Related Topics

  • Food
  • Manchester

More on this story

  • Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck regains three Michelin stars

  • What it takes to get a Michelin star