New two-star Michelin restaurants, but when will Ireland get a three-star?

Michelin awards 2022: Aimsir is unequivocally at three-star level, says Corinna Hardgrave

The skies lit up with the Michelin announcement of two new two-star restaurants and two new one-star restaurants in Ireland. But, what we didn’t get was our first Michelin three-star restaurant, the highest accolade in the Michelin Guide.

It’s never easy to get inside the head of the Michelin Guide and its inspectors, and the awards on Wednesday for the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2022, which were announced in a steady stream on Twitter, proved no different. It was a jubilant celebration for restaurants in Dublin, with Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen and Liath both landing two Michelin stars. Bastible and Glovers Alley were awarded one star.

Going straight in at two stars was the expected outcome for Mickael Viljanen’s Chapter One – he had already gained two Michelin stars when he was head chef in The Greenhouse – and there is a strong sense that he’s not going to stop there. Marina O’Loughlin, the restaurant critic for The Sunday Times, believes it is already at three star level. “Were Chapter One in St Germain rather than Parnell Square, I’m pretty sure the tyremen would be falling over themselves to award the full trio of twinklers,” she said in her review of the restaurant earlier this year.

But there is a sense that there may be a little bit of shoe dragging when it comes to the maximum award in Ireland. In the UK, the total number of three-star restaurants nudged up to eight, with the newly minted three Michelin star award for Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume restaurant in Cumbria. But here we are still waiting.

Aimsir, the 24-seater restaurant at Cliff at Lyons in Kildare, must surely be in contention for three stars. It went straight into the 2020 guide with two stars, 4½ months after opening, and an expectation that it would move swiftly to three Michelin star level is not without precedent. But it didn’t happen this year.

Clare Smyth, the Irish chef/patron of Core restaurant in London, landed two stars at a similar speed to Aimsir, and was awarded three stars the following year in the 2021 guide. A quick elevation, which in the past was seen as the preserve of French chefs, is something the ever cautious guide is now prepared to do. Especially when the chef is known to them and has a three-star track record.

The top level team at Aimsir have not missed a beat since they opened. Cornish chef Jordan Bailey is well known to the guide, having worked as head chef in three Michelin star Maaemo in Oslo before moving to Ireland with his Danish wife, Majken Bech-Bailey, who heads up the front of house at Aimsir. The detailed food, impeccable provenance and consistent attention to detail in a stunning room are all things that the inspectors look for in order to award an elusive three Michelin stars.

Famously cryptic, the inspectors give little away on what is required to move up the ranks, but having eaten in Core, and many three Michelin star restaurants, Aimsir, in my opinion, is unequivocally at three star level. So, I would expect there to be a considerable number of visits from inspectors this year.

This year’s newly minted restaurants are a mix of classic cooking and more edgy takes. Mickael Viljanen at Chapter One and Andy McFadden at Glover’s Alley are pure classics, showing that Michelin isn’t moving away from its core style any time soon. Then there’s a more studied, detailed tasting menu framed by the five elements of taste in Damien Grey’s Liath, and a Nordic inspired menu with natural wine at Barry Fitzgerald’s Bastible restaurant.

It is a good result, with hard graft being rewarded, and a clear indication that the guide is taking the dining scene here more seriously. But with all the awards landing in Dublin, you can expect there to be an increased push coming from other corners of the country.

The inspectors have made their presence known, publicising their many meals as they hit the troughs around the country, with a concentrated onslaught to make up for the many months that were lost due to the pandemic. It would appear that each of the Michelin starred restaurants was reassessed, and checked for suitability to remain in the guide, and there were no deletions, with all restaurants, except for those that have closed, such as The Greenhouse, retaining their Michelin stars, leaving us with a total of four two-star and 14 one-star restaurants in the Republic of Ireland and three one-star restaurants in the North.

Despite much talk of high rents and rising food costs, a Michelin star dining experience is still within reach for those looking to dine out on a special occasion. If you’re looking for value, head to Campagne in Kilkenny where their three-course lunch and early bird menus are €45; for a relaxed vibe, the dinner menus at Bastible and Variety Jones are €70 and €75, and for a Michelin two-star lunch, head to Chapter One, if you can get a reservation, because we’re not expecting this to be priced at €65 for much longer.