This year has seen a fair few openings & high profile departures, within the top 10% of the Automobile Association’s restaurant list. So the AA 2015 Restaurant guide may look a little different this year. The main ones to keep an eye on are:
- Robert Thompson, who has switched sides on the Isle of Wight.
- Andre Garrett, who left London for the stately pile of Cliveden.
- Matt Worswick, moved to Steven Gerrard’s restaurant, The Warehouse, from Glenapp Castle.
- Tom Aikens, closed & concentrating on a new opening & other concepts.
- Adam Simmonds departed Danesfield House, to be replaced with Billy Reid.
- Marquis at Alkham, Charlie Lakin departed in late June
- Dominic Chapman, leaves The Royal Oak for his own venture.
- Manchester ‘Restaurant Wars’ & the ever expanding Simon Rogan.
- James Sommerin returns to the stoves in his own new venture.
- Jersey, the new Ludlow?
- A phoenix rising from the ashes?
- Great Fosters, Egham, Surrey. It’s been turbulent.
Isle of Wight & Robert Thompson
So let’s get to it then. It is rumoured that Robert Thompson may re-enter the AA 2015 guide with 3rosettes for his new project Isla’s, at The George hotel in Yarmouth. This is a return to the heady days of when Kevin Mangeolles captained the stoves in Yarmouth. Sadly, The Hamborough had its rosettes suspended due to uncertainty of staffing etc, it is likely that they’ll re-enter the guide with 2.
Next is Andre Garrett, it’s hard to believe that the AA decided that the food was only worth 2 rosettes in the 2014 guide. Now the sibling property to the iconic Chewton Glen, Cliveden is being restored back to its former glory. All the feedback I’ve received about Garrett’s cooking has been top rate (including a 7/10 in the GFG), and I’d be looking at a minimum of 3rosettes, but rumours have reach ChefHermes that 1 of the 2 new 5rosettes is Andre Garrett, which if true would be a monumental effort, unfortunately I can’t see that being possible.
Sadly the same can’t be said for Chewton Glen. I’ve been told, that after a warning last year that their 3rd rosette was in jeopardy, it has been removed for the 2015 guide, with a demotion to 2.
Matt Worswick left Glenapp Castle in early 2014, after gaining / retaining a Michelin star in the previous October. The Warehouse was relaunched some three months later, but it hasn’t been plain sailing. The owners are unhappy at the poor showing in the guides (nothing in GFG other than a readers choice), and despite Worswick saying:
We just want to get the food as good as we can and if that wins us a Michelin star then that’s great.
The problem is that after leaving Glenapp he said:
I achieved everything I wanted to at Glenapp Castle. It gave me a stepping stone for getting the [Michelin] star. But I don’t see the Warehouse as a stepping stone, I see it in the long-term; I think it’s got a very exciting future.
Sadly, the rumour is that his time is up, & that the Warehouse might not be as long term as first thought.
UPDATE: Worswick tweeted today (Saturday 20th)
I have resigned from @warehouse … food styles and content from immediate effect are not my own.
Tom Aikens in the 2014 guide held the maximum 5rosettes, now with the trophy restaurant closed and on the market, Aikens will lose that status. The rumoured replacement for a place at the top table is Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, who has held 4rosettes for a number of years.
Adam Simmonds departed Danesfield house in the Summer of 2013, it was only when some staff noticed that they weren’t in the GFG, that the game was up. The etiquette concerning guides, is that the chefs should let them know about their movements, Michelin in particular seem to take a very dim view if left out of the loop. ‘Experience hand’ as the AA call him, Billy Reid took over the reins but seems to have failed it achieving the 3rosette standard for the 24 cover fine dining room, instead collecting only 2.
Larkin, Chapman & food led pubs
With both Charlie Larkin & Dominic Chapman leaving their respective employers for pastures new, many feel that the replacements may have to prove their mettle. Expect demotions to 2rosettes for both properties.
Manchester, Rogan & Byrne
Being a feature of the programme Restaurant Wars, Aiden Byrne & Simon Rogan were both shadowed as they prepared to open their respective eateries in Manchester. It illustrated the complexities of getting these projects off the ground, with Byrne’s food coming under fire the most, to the point where he reverted back to tried and trusted dishes from the last time he held a Michelin star (2002), or even earlier. Rogan on the other hand, has a distinctive style which required little in the way of tailoring to satisfy the Manchester gastonauts. I’d expect both to get 3rosettes, but for different reasons.
On top of his Manchester exploits, Simon Rogan also opened Fera at Claridges, taking over the space vacated by Gordon Ramsay. It’s fair to say that the London venture has been the hottest ticket in town since it opened in early May but is it too soon to give Fera 4rosettes straight off the bat? I think maybe not.
James Sommerin returns
ChefHermes first broke the story that former Michelin starred chef, James Sommerin, would be taking the helm of his now eponymous restaurant in Penarth back in April 2013. Now that it’s finally open, the plaudits have come rolling in; Top 30 in GFG & recognised by The Times. Feedback has also been good, so expect a new entry straight in a 3rosettes for the AA 2015 guide.
Jersey, the new Ludlow?
Very heavy rumours have been circulating that AA inspectors have spent some time on Jersey, apparently looking at promoting one of three candidates to 4rosettes. Whilst there is uncertainty at The Grand, it is unlikely to be them this year, so this leaves Ormer (Shaun Rankin) or Bohemia (Steve Smith). Both have previous for achieving 4, but after the hoo-har last year over the speed in which Ormer achieved 3rosettes, my money would be on Smith.
The phoenix, a blast from the past
This section has been added since the initial post. It appears that a former high profile Welsh property has risen from the mediocrity of previous years, back to where it was 20 years ago. Llangoed hall, in Powys, clearly suffered under the Von Essen regime, a lack of investment in the sately pile soon took its toll. Under the new owners, there has been a steady investment programme, reaping the 4red star status in the previous year’s guide. Now Chef Hermes has learned that it appears that it has gathered 3rosettes in the aa 2015 guide.
And finally this leaves Great Fosters in Egham, Surrey. The property has been through a torrid time in the kitchen, steady hand Simon Bolsover left for Seaham Hall; former Michelin starred chef Shane Hughes came & went, only to be replaced by Nick Chappell (who was formerly the head chef under Alan Murchison at L’Ortolan.); Stewart Warner also came & went (previously of the 3rosette Hillbark); Jimmy Desrivieres (formerly of the 3rosette Westover Hall) was yet another who quickly realised that Great Fosters wasn’t for him. Now ChefHermes has learned that the fine dining option, The Tudor Room, is to close, at least on a temporary basis, relieving the hotel of its potential way back into the top 10%.
The AA 2015 Restaurant guide is release on Tuesday 23rd Sept, with the awards dinner the previous night. All new 3/4/5rosettes will be announced then & via Twitter.