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Michelin_2020_sustainability_award_enda_mcevoy
Enda McEvoy, Loam Galway, receiving the Michelin Sustainability Award 2020.
Interviews

Rebecca Burr, Director of Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland On The 2020 Irish Star Revelations

Dee Laffan chats to Rebecca Burr about the new star recipients in Ireland and her thoughts on the future of Irish food.

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One month on from the most momentous occasion for the Irish hospitality industry as Ireland was awarded the biggest number of Michelin stars to-date. 

Two weeks ago today, at the 2020 Great Britain and Ireland Michelin Guide Revelation Ceremony in London, Ireland received the most Michelin stars bestowed to date and it became one of the most momentous days in Irish food history.

While everyone was still reeling in the news and Champagne was being popped, Dee spoke with Rebecca Burr in a private room at The Hurlingham Club to get her reaction on the new Irish recipients and her thoughts on specific restaurants and chefs and the future of Irish food. 

Two new two stars for Ireland

“It’s huge, momentous really. Both equally deserving, very different, but yes it’s wonderful.”

A lot of people have said this has been a long time coming to Mikael Viljanen in The Greenhouse, what do you think?

“It’s quite important to say this really, that within a local market, often local critics or diners will say that, but in the world of Michelin we are comparing against restaurants all over the world and we have to be absolutely sure. But yes, the kitchen has come on at a rapid in a small period of time. I think if the chef were to look at his cooking in the early days and then how it’s progressed… a star is important, but two stars… we’re in another league here. Can they maintain it and will it be consistent? Yes. Without doubt. He’s really earned it.”

On Jordan Bailey’s impact on the Irish restaurant scene...

“Jordan is proof it can be done. He came from a spectacular background didn’t he, but this is not just a copy of, it is very much his own thing and to get to that level so soon, I was blown away, I have to say. Every credit to them, they’ve put the hours in, a wonderful place, a wonderful team, they deserve every success.”

Did you visit both restaurants? 

“Yes, I’ve been to both, obviously, but it’s not just me, it’s the team and we’ve had international visitors that have been there for us as well. You know we are never afraid of making these moves [giving two stars soon after restaurant opening], I think it’s misunderstood within the industry that there has to be a process… Well, we don’t have a process. That’s boring, we really don’t have a process. If someone is good enough then great. We like to have time and we’ve had the time with him [Jordan]. You can just feel it, you can feel that he knows it inside and out and it’s just going to get better and better and better.”

On new one stars

Liath, Blackrock…

“There have been fewer changes there. Andrew has moved away from the business but it’s still the same chef, which don’t misunderstand me, that’s a big change… There has been a partnership and now there isn’t, and he [Damien Grey] has got a wonderful business there and we can see he is doing his own thing, new name, new style. Two stars? Let’s see. I hope so, one day.”

On The Muddlers Club, Belfast & Bastion, Kinsale…

“Perhaps surprises to the community in Ireland but perhaps not for us. We always knew they were on our radar, it’s just a matter of time. Sometimes, some chefs just need a little bit more time to find their feet… they’re still experimenting. When restaurants get a star we don’t want them to stop experimenting or different things, but perhaps – and this is not just these particular restaurants – some of the flavour combinations are not tried and tested and you know people that follow the Michelin Guide who are looking for a star experience are not guinea pigs… they want to go along and know that the chef is confident in what he does. These two restaurants are brilliant and give that confident experience.”

“Brilliant. All great restaurants in Ireland this year and all so different. Variety Jones – brilliant. The cooking at Adare Manor is excellent and the sommelier there, Jurica Gojevic, who won the new Sommelier Award – I mean, he’s just a gentleman. It was unintentional that we gave two of our new awards to Ireland [Sommelier Award and Sustainability Award], it was just all the inspectors were placing names in the hat, so to speak, for the awards, and Ireland just kept coming out on top. I think Ireland was there first before a lot, in terms of sustainability, perhaps behind the Nordic countries, but Enda McEvoy in Loam has always been doing it. He sort of took a risk when he first had that way of thinking and now everyone is catching up with him. There is a lot to think about for us, from the inspectors’ point of view, when it comes to sustainability because we have to watch the menu price versus the ingredients they are offering. It has got to be balanced. I think he [Enda] is a forerunner and I don’t think he’ll stop.”

2020 Bib Gourmands

“The reason for the loss of many this year is a combination of things really. Without naming names, some of those restaurants when they first open up are finding their feet and figure out what they are doing and as they progress – their business is changing, what they charge changes, the style of menu… The Bib is quite humble really, it’s a local, affordable, neighbourhood type thing and sometimes, regardless of price, the chef’s cooking just doesn’t fit within that. It doesn’t mean they’ve gotten worse, it just means it’s changed and it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a star either… it’s an awkward one. But, having a plate recommendation in our guide is still an accolade.

We were very reluctant in putting out the Bibs. We wanted the Bibs to have their own time because they are still highly regarded and they would have been lost if they were announced today with the new stars news. We wanted to give them a platform on their own. If we just put out the additions, that’s not fair either because people would contact us to see if they had kept their Bib, so we wanted to be as transparent as possible, but obviously, that means we have to show some of the places that haven’t retained it. Some of them have had a good run and their business has progressed and changed and it doesn’t fit into what the Bib is anymore. It’s not a negative thing. Of course, one or two will be because of quality, or maybe where the chef has changed, etc. It’s tricky!” 

Putting Ireland on the map

“The Irish dining scene has never been better, long may it continue. I really hope everyone has a very good work-life balance, successful business and they enjoy what they do... It seemed to be like that tonight in the room, it really came across.

Look at what happened last year, when the three new stars went to Cork, it really did take off down there. Every single day or week I am seeing an alert to do with the Irish dining scene. I am really delighted for everyone involved. It’s tough anywhere running a restaurant, employing chefs, everything associated with that… if we can help out a bit today with good news and the release of the 2020 GB & Ireland Guide and everyone included in it… long may it continue. 

We don’t work to numbers, that’s not how it works, but we did get halfway through the year this year and thought, ‘Crikey, it’s a good year!’ The standards are going up everywhere, Ireland included; it’s a natural involvement. It’s wonderful. Why not shout it from the rooftops?!”