Michelin recognises Fitzrovia eateries in 2014 guide, but the food fight continues

Front of restaurant building.

Lima in Rathbone Place is the first Peruvian restaurant to gain a Michelin star.

The prestigious Michelin guide to restaurants and hotels has continued to recognise Fitzrovia restaurants and has also awarded new eateries. In its 2014 edition published this month nine Fitzrovia establishments are listed. However, food and restaurants arouse passions in the neighbourhood in many ways.

Three restaurants — Dabbous in Whitfield Street, Pied à Terre in Charlotte Street, and Hakkasan in Hanway Place — retained their single Michelin stars. In addition Michelin awarded a new star to Lima in Rathbone Place.

“Lima is the first Peruvian restaurant to gain a star and highlights the increasing popularity of South American cuisine,” announced Michelin.

“We have never produced a GB & Ireland guide that provides our readers with such diversity and variety”, says Rebecca Burr, Editor of the 2014 guide. “Fantastic B&Bs, wonderful pubs, stylish hotels, world class restaurants and great value eateries — we have them all in our guide.

“The Michelin guide has always reflected what’s out there and London in particular has never offered so much choice — there really is something for everyone and for every occasion and there appears to be no end to the number of exciting new restaurant openings. With cuisines and culinary influences from all parts of the globe, it’s no surprise that the capital is one of the most exciting cities in the world for food,” says Burr.

Chairs and tables outside cafe.

Honey & Co in Warren Street is a favourite of local people and is a new recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand.

“This year’s selection also sees 27 new Bib Gourmands — the award which recognises those establishments offering good food at affordable prices (the limit being £28 for three courses) and one that is hugely popular with our readers. The guide now has 143 ‘Bibs,’” announced Michelin.

Front of restaurant.

Picture restaurant in Great Portland Street was visited by Michelin shortly after opening in June this year.

Barrica and The Salt Yard both in Goodge Street retained their Bib Gourmand status with new Bibs awarded to Gail’s Kitchen in Bayley Street, Honey and Co Warren Street, and Picture on Great Portland Street. The owners of Picture told us that Michelin reviewers visited them shortly after they opened for the first time in June this year.

Fitzrovia eateries have done pretty well and should be congratulated. But behind the fine dining and rave reviews the restaurant trade and Fitzrovia’s residents have not always seen eye to eye.

One couple who were considering living in Fitzrovia approached me and asked what it’s like to live here. I first asked them what attracted them to the neighbourhood. They said the district was relatively quiet for somewhere so central, they liked the Georgian and Victorian architecture, and that it had some very attractive restaurants.

I asked them: “Would you like to live close to a restaurant?” They looked at each other before replying with a definite “no”. They didn’t want to live somewhere where they could be disturbed by taxis and mini-cabs dropping people off and picking them up, and certainly not near the noise and smells of extractor fans, or the crowds that gather on the pavement outside some places.

This is a common complaint and planning applications for change of use from retail to restaurant premises are usually met with strong objections from individual residents and Fitzrovia’s community organisations. New applications for alcohol licenses are similarly opposed.

Fitzrovia’s restaurants it seems are simultaneously a good thing and a bad thing, with both restaurateurs and residents expressing frustration with each other. The management of the neighbourhood’s conservation areas and listed buildings while helping to keep the built environment attractive has also been a source of frustration and resentment.

A Fitzrovia News colleague of mine spoke to an architect who is a resident and has been working in restaurants and designing extraction systems. The architect angrily told him that arguments over conservation were frustrating his and restaurant owners’ attempts to comply with environmental health concerns raised by other residents and Camden Council.

If anything, these arguments are likely to continue. Under new planning guidelines premises under 150 square metres can convert from retail to restaurant use without planning permission. And the Fitzrovia Business Improvement District (BID) is actively promoting Fitzrovia — particularly Charlotte Street — as “London’s Food and Drink Quarter”, with scant regard for the street’s heritage and conservation.

At least no Fitzrovia restaurant has been humiliated by losing its Michelin credentials. But the constant pressure on the neighbourhood to accommodate more restaurants and extend the opening hours of existing ones is a recipe for continued conflict. Michelin don’t award stars for strife.

The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2014 priced at £15.99. It will also be available via an Apple App priced at £5.99. The Michelin Guide London 2014, priced at £11.99. This guide provides extended text on London’s restaurants.

See the quarterly printed edition of Fitzrovia News for reviews of restaurants and cafes by The Dining Detective.

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