You rarely get a hotel that calls its Michelin Star a “happy accident” but ask the staff at the Goring and they’ll say that there’s, is exactly that. But with only four London restaurants bagging the title this year, the appointment is much more than a lucky strike.
For happy accidents need some preparation.
First of all there’s that designer renovation in early 2015, where an all star British cast including Nina Campbell, David Linley, Tim Gosling and Gainsborough Silk were commissioned to revamp sections of the hotel. David Linley (Queen’s nephew, Chairman at Christie’s and designer extraordinaire) added the excellent bespoke furniture he’s known for, and other light touches to The Dining Room to create a more contemporary setting which won’t leave regulars feeling they’ve got the wrong address.
But no matter how beautiful the setting, the Michelin guide isn’t about decor. The other piece of the puzzle – and no doubt its main one – is the appointment of Shay Cooper as executive Chef in 2014. Strong from a Michelin star title earned at the Bingham hotel, Cooper was drafted in to perfect a menu already considered exceptional among British haute cuisine aficionados.
In existence since 1910 and with dishes such as the Yorkshire Grouse that reflect its heritage, The Dining Room has always posed a challenge to advocates of the “British food is bland” campaign, and forces them to drop any preconceptions by the Royal Warrant sign on their way out after their meal.
The only hotel to benefit from the Queen’s Royal Warrant, the quality here is evident, but before Cooper’s arrival, the Kitchens lacked the “Je ne sais quoi” that makes Michelin Stars fall from the sky. Now after 105 years, all that has changed.
Relying on his encyclopedic knowledge of British culinary culture, the Chef offers a trip across the isles in a spoonful: the wet, green plains of Yorkshire, the windswept cliff faces of Cornwall and the salty breeze of the Isle of Wight are expertly coaxed out and laid bare upon every bite. Backed by Restaurant Manager, Miko Jappinen’s excellent waiting staff and the expert taste of Sommelier Olivier Clause, the stage is set for an exceptional culinary experience at every service.
But the true recipe for the restaurant’s success, doesn’t necessarily lie in the dish, but in the person savoring it. For if Eggs Drumkilbo, Dover Sole, Roast Quail et al, are now Michelin Starred, they weren’t prepared with a judging panel in mind…at least not Michelin’s.
With over a century of existence and located in a sweet spot by Buckingham Palace (and incidentally, in the Royal family’s hearts) This family run establishment is the archetype of the quintessential luxury British hotel. With only 69 rooms, it’s an intimate affair; seeped in its own folklore and with it’s own standards which the hotel’s guests revel in and expect.
Royal connections were strengthened when Kate Middleton famously stayed here before her wedding in 2011, but though she’s the most publicised guest in a while, she’s preceded by the likes of Churchill, the Queen mother and and a long list of regulars that reads like a Paparazzi’s hit list.
So when the restaurant team get together, who they’ve got in mind, is the kind of guest that feels perfectly comfortable dining next to royalty and who expect a service worthy of the hotel’s pedigree.
They keep in mind the lady that books her afternoon tea every Saturday, the foreign dignitary they’ve turned on to black pudding and any member of the Royal family that may pop by… in short, they aim to please the most demanding judges of all, the Goring’s guests.
For if they’re satisfied, then everything else is just icing on the cake… a “happy accident” if you will.