The Michelin guide, which features (and also awards stars for excellence to) hotels and restaurants, has multiple editions covering almost 30 countries. India isn’t one of them, although Tokyo found a place in their plans in 2007, a Hong Kong and Macau guide followed in 2008 and the Singapore guide launched last year with celebrated French chef Joel Robuchon (the man with the largest number of Michelin stars awarded to his restaurants) teaming up with other chefs to cook for the invitees. While the company is tight-lipped abut future expansions as always, speculation is rife about which country will merit a Michelin guide next.
That begs the question, if the Michelin Red Guide decided to publish an India edition, which Mumbai restaurants would it award its coveted stars to? We decided to give our own speculative thumbs-up to the city’s dining experiences we believe could actually be in the running for star status.
What the stars mean
To decide this, it’s important to understand how the guide evolved and the thought process behind the star rating. The Michelin brothers, André and Édouard, first published a guide for French motorists in 1900 CE and distributed it for free. You’ll be surprised to know that this one was all about maps and tips on fuelling stations. That’s because the brothers were tyre manufacturers and hoped to popularise the use of cars via this ready-reckoner for driving enthusiasts. It was only much later, in 1926, that they saw that the restaurant recommendation section of the guide was popular and started to award single stars to the best fine-dining restaurants. Five years later, they decided to establish a hierarchy, with one star for a place that was good in its category, two for a restaurant that boasted excellent cooking and was worth a detour, and finally, the most coveted three Michelin stars for an establishment that exhibited exceptional cuisine that merited a special journey to be made to experience it.
How the worthies are chosen
There are certain criteria for earning stars that have been observed but are largely not spoken about, especially as the Michelin inspectors review anonymously and the guide is not influenced by public relations companies. While in the past the decision to review a restaurant was made based on word of mouth among the high-fliers, in today’s world, the places that get a chance to go under the Michelin microscope are the ones that manage to create and sustain a lot of buzz around them. This is down to being popular favourites among discerning diners, bloggers, etc, and garnering a substantial amount of social media love. A certain high level of ambience, amenities, location and service is also key. Once the inspectors visit (and perhaps visit a few times more), it’s upto the establishment to wow them with creativity, consistency and commitment to an excellent standard of produce. After that, they can just pray and ready themselves for THAT call, the Michelin mention and the barrage of new bookings that will follow.
NOTE: A trend noticed in recent years is recognition of excellence in street food where hole-in-the-wall unlikelies such as Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle were awarded Michelin stars in the Singapore guide! In the case of Mumbai, there would be just too many possibles in that category so we’re sticking to the tried and tested idea of what constitutes Michelin-worthy goodness for this article.
Our star picks are…