Hunger grows for recognition of Irish fare

Disappointment as Michelin Guide awards no new stars to deserving Irish restaurants

Michelin’s announcement that none of its 14 new stars are going to Ireland has gone down like a rates bill in the gossip-loving Irish restaurant world. Photograph: Chef Mikael Viljanen (left), Lady Helen in Mount Juliet (top) and Galway restaurant Aniar.

Chefs Mikael Viljanen and Stephen Toman can take some comfort from the fact that they don't have to congratulate any other newly starred Irish chefs today. Michelin's announcement that none of its 14 new stars are going to Ireland has gone down like a rates bill in the gossip-loving Irish restaurant world.

Restaurant watchers grow more mystified each year Finnish chef Viljanen fails to get a star at The Greenhouse Restaurant in Dublin’s Dawson Street.

The second glaring omission, Toman’s restaurant Ox in Belfast, has broken ground with its vegetable-focused menu of Irish ingredients. Ox is part of a growing Northern Irish scene of restaurateurs and food producers.

The guide has failed to award a star to Northern Ireland since 2011, when Michael Deane lost his star at the Belfast city centre Deanes Restaurant. Some consolation came in the form of new Bib Gourmands for the north, including one to Michael Deane's Belfast cafe Deanes at Queens.


There was a collective sigh on Twitter this morning as Michelin watchers followed a link tweeted at 7.31am to an unwieldy list of predominantly British restaurants, with the nine Irish starred restaurants still in place.

Under the listing for “New Stars” England, Scotland, Wales and London was the sum total of the regions listed.

Editor Rebecca Burr was quoted in a press release praising the "enormous richness and variety of the UK's restaurant scene."

The absence of an “and Ireland” in her glowing quote could be read as a damning indictment of our restaurant scene. Michelin inspectors seem to think Irish restaurants are lacking in any new richness or variety.

It was clear there were no early morning phonecalls to chefs in Irish restaurants to tell them that they were about to have the busiest day of their career. No news was bad news, and also unexpected.

Two new stars to Irish restaurants were awarded by the guide in each of the last two years: Galway restaurant Aniar and Locks Brasserie in Dublin in the 2013 guide and the two Kilkenny restaurants Campagne and the Lady Helen in Mount Juliet in the 2014 list.

The Kilkenny restaurateurs, who have retained their stars, will be happy not to have experienced the painfully swift deletion of a star, as happened to Sebastian Masi’s Locks Brasserie. But the lack of a new star for Dublin has meant it’s been a long hungry gap of eight years for lasting Michelin recognition of any new arrivals to the Dublin restaurant scene.

Oliver Dunne’s Bon Appetit restaurant in Malahide was the last Dublin restaurant to get and keep a star for the 2008 guide. Despite the recession the midrange scene has seen a thriving midrange restaurant scene in Dublin if the struggle to find a table on a Saturday night is any indication.

Northern Ireland’s other two Bib Gourmands went to James St South Bar and Grill and The Old School House in Lisbane.

The only crumb of news for southern restaurants was chef Barry Fitzgerald’s wine bar Etto on Merrion Row in Dublin city centre winning its first Bib Gourmand. It’s a great little place serving excellent food. Good luck with getting a table anytime soon.