With an array of top quality fine-dining restaurants scattered across the city, it might come as a bit of surprise that Manchester doesn’t yet have a Michelin-starred restaurant.
The last time it held the honour was way back in 1974, when arguably the city’s best The French was granted the status. Late last year Michelin awarded 20 new restaurants with their prestigious, well-sought-after star but Manchester missed out yet again.
Simon Binns, What’s On editor at the Manchester Evening News, has been reviewing restaurants for over ten years and whilst complimenting the vast majority of restaurants in the city, he admits that Manchester probably doesn’t deserve one: ”They’re probably not good enough if we’re honest.
“I think we’ve got some excellent restaurants, but none of them are consistently exceptional. I think we’ve made that much of a song and dance about not having one that we are almost a direct source of PR for Michelin.
“We’ve created a storyline that plays out every year.”
There is however the age old question of whether a Michelin star really is that important or if in reality, it’s just a label to inflate the chef’s ego.
However, Simon believes it can add that something extra to your establishment, saying: “It certainly puts you on a map of places to visit for tourists – and you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of spend that brings with it.
“Look at the Michelin trail around northern Spain. You can possibly argue that Michelin is perhaps not as important as it was years ago, but it shouldn’t be written off as a novelty. Chefs care, because a star books up their restaurants up for months in advance.”
Birmingham, which has built somewhat of a rivalry with Manchester for the title of the UK’s second city, has five restaurants that have Michelin-star status. But, does that mean it should be held in higher esteem as a city?
Simon believes that the city is lagging behind its West Midlands rivals due to the service. He continues: “It’s disappointing, especially when you could argue what chef Aiden Byrne is doing at Manchester House is on par with Purnell’s.
“Often though, it’s the service that lets the side down. I don’t think we’ve nailed that side of it yet. But we’re almost there.”
The optimism that Simon has could be down to a number of reasons, but a restaurant that opened just two weeks ago is currently making waves with celebrities around the area.
Grand Pacific, situated on King Street, has already been visited by the likes of Manchester United legend Gary Neville, who has the utmost of praise.
Went to the opening of my favourite Manchester F&B venue last night @GrandPacificMCR. What a room..
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) March 24, 2017
At the site of the old Reform Club, the historic establishment is kitted out with an opulent interior and the 25-seat long bar completes the splendour appearance of the grade II listed building.
General manager at the restaurant Michael Dell Armi believes that service is the most important thing when it comes to unrivalled quality: “We invest a lot of money, time and effort into training so people start a lot earlier just with us rather than with a guest right away.
“We opened two weeks ago and we employed the majority of our staff a month before we opened and invested a huge amount of time building that knowledge. We have a really strong culture as well and once the staff have got that culture and that knowledge it’ll become subconscious to them.
When it comes to the Michelin situation, Michael has great optimism that Manchester has plenty about it to gain one in the future. He continues: “I think Manchester is a very young city and I think it’s quite immature in its dining scene. I believe that a Michelin star is something that people have sought rather than it being given in many places.
“I think that’s the issue, they (restaurants) have been chasing it, rather than focusing on perhaps what’s important, but I think there are people doing that now. It won’t be long.”
With Grand Pacific already making a name for itself, Manchester could potentially have a restaurant of genuine quality and the foundations of a system that has the air of something successful.
Around the corner from the eccentric eatery, tucked away in the Spring Gardens area, lies Panama Hatty’s – a modest establishment with a modern vibe.
Walking down the stairs, you are presented with a neat layout and fancy seating area, but general manager Edwin Cromie doesn’t think Manchester is the place for a Michelin star because there just simply isn’t enough people: “I don’t think the population is big enough for it to have a Michelin star. It keeps trying but we’re not in that category.
“There are a lot of restaurants that have opened up around here trying to claim to be something more than what they are. It just doesn’t seem to me that it has the population that comes in to the city centre.”
In regards to the future, Edwin is sceptical about whether Manchester will procure a Michelin star due to the amount of restaurants and lack of people.
“It’s possible – there’s a few good restaurants but the Michelin star is about getting the customers coming in that constantly feed that desire, it needs to be busy midweek and not just at the weekends.”
The city has a vast amount of restaurants which are diverse in terms of cuisine. Deepak Yadav, general manager at one of the leading Thai restaurants Chaophraya, believes that it’s not so much the lack of people in Manchester that’s the problem, but it’s the type of people. “Manchester people are fun-loving and casual, and they want to be in their comfort zone.
“Whenever you talk about fine-dining and high-end Michelin-starred restaurants, you always think about a very formal atmosphere which Mancunians don’t like.
“That’s one of the reasons you see other restaurants that don’t have a very formal atmosphere doing very well in the city – because people like to be friendly rather than getting into that formal zone.”
It’s clear to see that people have varied views on the reasons why Manchester doesn’t have a Michelin-starred restaurant. One aspect that can’t be argued is that the city has an extensive amount of restaurants that offer some fantastic sundry cuisines that is unparalleled to other places.
Saying that, it’s hard to agree that Manchester will be gaining the reputable star in the near future, but is it really that imperative?
Well, it matters to the chefs for their stature in the fine-dining world but it shouldn’t matter to anyone else, because the city has some excellent dining experiences despite the lack of recognition when it comes to Michelin.