TUMBLEWEED continues to bounce through Liverpool restaurants - at least as far as the 2016 Michelin Guide is concerned.
Published today, Marc Wilkinson’s Fraiche, over the water in Oxton, continues to fly the flag for the Lone Star State that is Merseyside, retaining its star for the eighth year in a row.
Other than that, the cupboard is bare. Not even a Bib Gourmand (“good food at affordable prices”) for hopefuls such as The Art School, Lunya, Delifonseca, Spire and the rest of those names who regularly shine in the guide books and take the good food gongs.
Not until you hit Chester do you catch another star. There, Simon Radley at the Grosvenor has again passed muster with the Michelin inspectors.
But should we in Liverpool lament? Feel scorned? Or should we tuck into what’s on the groaning table already?
Staff at Liverpool Confidential are frequently emailed by people anxious not to mess up a special occasion, wondering where we’d recommend for food. In 2008 the list could have been written on the back of a ciggie packet. Now, despite the many duffs that crop up in this and every other city, it is getting appreciably longer.
More and more good - to very good - restaurateurs and chefs are taking a punt on Liverpool as they realise there is a seven-day appetite among an ever-savvy population.
Gone are the days of wet nellies, scouse and the Asha. Never before has the city’s hospitality sector boomed quite like this.
But for those for whom these things do matter, reaching for the stars might have suddenly become more realistic. Jean Christophe Novelli is still - apparently - coming to Liverpool, as is Aiden Byrne. Up the road, in Ormskirk, Mark Birchall, former head chef at L'Enclume, this week revealed he is setting up his first sole venture.
The Michelin guide was first published in 1911 for the world’s first car drivers and gave recommendations for restaurants they might happen upon during the course of their motoring adventures.
Given that the very lovely Fraiche, named by The Sunday Times earlier this year as the Number One restaurant in the UK, entertains only a handful of diners at any one time and is booked up at least three months in advance, that’s one hell of a packed lunch to take should you decide to hit the road in the original spirit of the guide.
The more spontaneous star seekers should perhaps head up the M62, no stopping at Manchester either, and try to bag a table at The Man Behind the Curtain, celebrating its first star today.
It’s harder than it looks, say Michelin inspectors. “A restaurant doesn’t get a star for simply being the best in its city. It has to stand up against starred restaurants all over the world.”
There are 15 new one stars and two new two stars in this year’s guide.
The new two stars are both Japanese restaurants: Araki and Umu, and are both in London.
After the capital, which has scores of the buggers, Birmingham is the second city, now twinkling with five restaurants starred.
Now, where are we going for some oysters?