We've all heard of the Michelin Guide, but how many of us have actually read, or perhaps "browsed" would be a better word, a copy of the book itself? The Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland is approaching its 40th edition and is a fixed feature on the landscape for more than a generation of diners across the country. For most of us, however, the Michelin Guide is simply the vehicle that delivers its famous "stars" to the very best restaurants. With remarkable understatement the Guide defines a 3 Star establishment as "worth a special journey"; a 2 Star establishment as "worth a detour"; and a 1 Star establishment as "a very good restaurant". When you consider that in Scotland only 15 restaurants are considered to be worth 1 Star, and only one restaurant is considered to be worth 2 Stars, it is clear that Michelin sets its sights very high indeed: this is the gold standard of dining.
But returning to the Michelin Guide itself, it is far more than a listing of Michelin Stars given to restaurants. It actually includes over 1900 hotels and 2000 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, though from a Scottish perspective only about 100 of the 1000 pages cover Scottish businesses. Listings extend to hotels, restaurants, pubs, and the breadth of the assessment process extends well beyond the famous stars. All the businesses covered are rated in terms of their "comfort" and "pleasantness", and less well known awards are given for restaurants offering good quality cuisine at an affordable price (the "Bib Gourmand") and hotels offering good levels of comfort and service at an affordable price (the "Bib Hotel").
It is arguable that the plethora of different ways in which Michelin Guide assesses its entries can obscure the detail of what it is trying to communicate, even with a fold over front flap that contains a key. But there is no evading the fact that the Michelin Guide is the Gold Standard or the Holy Grail (select your metaphor according to taste) of restaurant and hotel guides.