Sacre bleu! Zut alors! Zee Breeteesh beat us again!

Times Online

January 26, 2007

British foodies have left French behind, says the Michelin man

Adam Fresco

The British palate is now more sophisticated than the French as Britons have more readily embraced different cuisines from around the world, according to the editor of the Michelin Guide.

Although Brits still love fish and chips and rosbif (roast beef) they have overtaken the French as connoisseurs of world food. Having absorbed many other cuisines, including Thai, Brazilian and Japanese, the British are now more adventurous than their cousins across the Channel, says Derek Bulmer, the Great Britain and Ireland editor of the restaurant bible.

Speaking to Times Online, with Jean-Luc Naret, the director of the Guides, he said: "The British palate has evolved and become more sophisticated.

Brits love to travel and eat different things and come back and support more strange restaurants in Britain that would have survived years ago.

"You have Malaysian and Brazilian restaurants as mainstream which the French do not."

The French consider their gastronomy so strong that they do not have "so much room for other (foreign) foods", Mr Bulmer says.

"There is so much diversity in Great Britain, more variety here than in France and more variety of better chefs. Britons are also more adventurous eaters than the French, we have always been willing to try new things but their food has dominated their food culture for so long they are not so adventurous in eating other cuisines.

"Maybe the French like their own food so much they are not prepared to embrace other food in the same way we do - they have more good restaurants but Britain's strength is in our diversity."

Mr Naret, a Frenchman, agrees. "He is right, Maybe we have been a bit self-centred. It is a bit like the wine situation - we were the best at producing quality wines and now the US also have great wines.

The French prefer their own style of cuisine, which is excellent, whereas the British have travelled and learnt from their experiences and it is more diverse.

"We have the most number of starred restaurants in France but we must not rest on our laurels."

With two guides now out in America - New York and San Francisco - Mr Bulmer is well placed to talk about the Americans love of food as well.

"The Americans like things the way they like things but Britons take it the way it comes - the US as a nation like things to be adapted for their palate," he says. "For example, a Thai dish will lose some of the heat over there but Britons will eat it as it’s meant to be eaten."

The new London restaurant guide, launched today with the latest GB and Ireland edition, includes just two entries per page rather than 12 and is more light hearted in its descriptions. Only 5 per cent of the guide, which sells a million copies a year, is made up of starred restaurants, the rest are gastropubs and small establishments.

As evidence of the diversity of restaurants in London alone the guide features 42 different types of cuisine including, for the first time, Korean.

The only London restaurant to get the cherished three stars is Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea while across the country the Fat Duck and Waterside Inn, both in Berkshire, retain their three stars.

A new feature in the larger guide includes a Bib Gourmand symbol - showing where you can eat a good quality three-course meal for less than 28. Interviewed at one of these yesterday, the Butcher and Grill, in Battersea, Mr Naret said that Michelin was aiming to add to its guides of New York and San Francisco in America as well as move into Asia.

The editors do sometimes get a call from an irate chef who had lost a star and they often agree to meet and explain why, but they stressed they are not a consultancy service.

"If we are going to take a star away the first anyone will know is when we publish - we do not ring the venue up in the middle of the year and say they have to improve or else. It is not about spending lots of money on the interior, it is all about the food."

The much coveted stars can be a huge financial boost to a business. One star means more custom from locals, two is national and three means international custom with a full waiting list.



"For example, a Thai dish will lose some of the heat over there but Britons will eat it as it’s meant to be eaten."

That's because Americans are wussies. Too hot and spicy and they can't handle it.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 26th, 2007 at 01:39 PM..