The Michelin guide is designed to highlight restaurants so good- they’re worth traveling to, even if just for a meal. While that may sound crazy to some, the very best Michelin starred restaurants justify this claim.
So what’s keeping us out of the white linen dining rooms?
Well, you could start with the prices, or the confusing menus or perhaps the impossible reservations, but we’ve got a few tips to make Michelin dining accessible. For the most part, it’s nowhere near as stuffy, scary or intimidating as you might think, and in many cases – nowhere near as expensive either.
Many restaurants love to claim that they’ve received a Michelin star. While that’s an incredibly prestigious honor, the greater food honour is actually retaining the star, or picking up an additional star. Just because a restaurant once earned a Michelin star doesn’t mean it will always have one. Stars are typically awarded annually, so be sure to see the current guidelines, here.
The highest a restaurant can receive is three stars, and those are the restaurants which the Michelin guide suggests traveling to- just to sample. But one star is a significant nod. Look for restaurants that currently maintain at least a star. You never know what’s changed if they’ve lost it.
Generally, the more stars the more expensive, though there are definite exceptions. With that in mind, don’t forget the cheapest Michelin starred meal in the world, which is about $2 all in.
There’s an undeniable allure about a Michelin starred dinner, but truth be told, the lunches can be even more delightful. Not only will the food maintain the same inventive, awe inspiring quality- but your wallet will remain a lot heavier.
Many one, two and three Michelin starred restaurants offer excellent lunch prix fixe deals at a mere fraction of the price of dinner. The restaurants are often less crowded, which leads to more personable service. This is by far the best and most approachable way to get into Michelin starred dining without breaking the bank. Any place worth going will put equal effort into its lunch service as it does it’s dinner, but at a fraction of the price.
You can also often find great wine flights on offer for a reasonable amount- showing the intricacy of pairing delectable dishes with expert, carefully selected wines. It’s wildly fun stuff.
Many of the very best restaurants have an extensively long reservation lead time required. Some take months to secure a table. But don’t just give up. Many restaurants will happily add your name to a waiting list.
We’ve managed to secure many near impossible reservations on the same day, by calling the same morning we’d like to eat- when many have cancelled. This also works well in the hours before opening, when some reservations fall off. It never hurts to call and asking to be added to the waiting list is a crucial tip.
Every restaurant is different and not all of the menus are hard to follow along with. With that said, many offer a prix fixe, a tasting menu, a chefs menu, a degustation menu and all sorts of choices.
It’s important to investigate how many choices you’ll have on each menu, since spending lots of money for food you don’t like is no fun. Take a look at the sample menus found online. If a place does not have readily available menus, there’s nothing insulting at all about emailing and asking for one, or mentioning specific diet requirements and asking if they’re willing to work around them,
We find the best menus will offer at least two items to choose from per course, giving you a high chance of loving one of the options. For those that offer no choice, you’ll need to be the adventurous type, though it’s A-ok to request “no fish” or “vegetarian” etc. Don’t be afraid to “ask” for special things.
Part of being a sommelier is finding interesting and NOT just expensive wines. While buying a pricey bottle for the table is great for the ego, it’s rarely going to work across multiple courses or palates.
Opting for the course by course wine pairings, or at least pairings for a couple courses allows a unique insight into the pleasures of food and wine. Sommeliers work hard to taste the food and their hand selected wines side by side- offering combinations to tantalize your tastebuds. If you can afford it, try it. Lots of fun.
For all of us non FIFA executives, CEO’s or government spies, Michelin starred meals are rare treats. Most restaurants are more than happy to print off a copy of the evening’s menu. Some restaurants will even have the chef sign it, and or give you a kitchen tour before you head off.
We love looking back on classic meals, remembering dishes and wine pairings that take us back in time. It’s fun to try and track down many of the wines you experienced, since they are often more reasonable than you’d think. Cheers to that!