Wales, as a country, lacks Michelin stars, even if you take into consideration James Sommerin’s latest Penarth venture and the reopening of The Crown. But why is this and does it really matter?
September saw the publication of the latest Michelin Guide but only three Welsh eateries made it into the 2014 edition. The Walnut Tree, Tyddyn Llan and The Checkers all managed to retain their coveted stars.
Bryan Webb, chef and owner of Tyddyn Llan, suggested that the lack of establishments with prestigious stars is due to the steep wage bill. He said, “To employ a chef of Michelin star standard, you are looking at a minimum wage of £50,000.” This isn’t the only cost attached to creating dishes that are worthy of a star, as a full time kitchen brigade, made up of six or seven staff, is also needed.
“The Crown boasts a brigade of 12 in a 30 cover restaurant,” he said. “They will need to serve 70 covers a day to break even.”
He also claimed that to be able to afford these mammoth costs, restaurants need to have rooms to let, which a lot of restaurants can’t offer. “Let’s look at Wales,” he said, “The Checkers has rooms, The Walnut Tree is connected to the Angel Hotel, and there’s us with rooms.
“To survive you need rooms,” he stated matter of factly.
Another of Wales’ top chefs, Hefin Roberts, suggested it was because restaurants this side of The Severn don’t get as much of a look in as their English counterparts. “We just don’t get the same look in as England,” he said. Despite being awarded three rosettes by the AA as well as the accolade of Wales’ best restaurant, he is yet to receive a star. Which raises the question as to whether the stars actually mean anything with regards to the quality of food.
Despite the lack of stars, Cardiff is home to a whole host of exciting restaurants, all boasting terrific menus. Places such as The Hang Fire Smokehouse pop-up shop bring some American BBQ classics, like pulled pork and brisket, to the tables of the capital. The empty plates and the licking of fingers at the end of the dinner service just prove that a star isn’t the only sign of a good meal.
I hit the streets of Cardiff to find out why some of the public think there’s a lack of Michelin starred joints in Wales:
What is the sign of a good meal to you? Why do you think there’s a lack of stars? Tweet us @thegrillbarrel or comment below with your thoughts!