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Battle for Michelin stars reaches climax

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A raid of the Michelin restaurant guide inspectors on Prague has just finished.

Inconspicuous men passed through dozens of Czech restaurants in the last five weeks and dispatched first evaluation verdicts to the French headquarters of the famous guide.

“It is very likely there were more inspectors here, but we only know about the one who introduced himself,” said Andrea Accordi from Allegro.

According to information available to Hospodářské noviny, the inspectors visited La Degustation, Alcron and Le Terroir in the Old Town, which was awarded the Bib Gourmand award last year. This prize indicates a restaurant with good food for moderate prices.

Café Imperial is this year’s hot candidate for a Michelin star. Local chef Zdeněk Pohlreich feeds his customers with leg of lamb in marjoram and roast squabs with chestnuts.

The price for one meal at Imperial costs at the most CZK 350, which corresponds to the Bib philosophy.

For another Michelin

Phil Carmichael, chef at the Maze restaurant, also confirmed the presence of Michelin inspectors in Prague.

When his restaurant opened a year ago, it was looked at as a potential winner in the competition for the first Czech Michelin star at the time.

Not the least because the Maze belongs to the empire of the chef Gordon Ramsay who has already collected 12 points for his twenty restaurants.

Nevertheless, the 2008 Michelin guide only awarded the star to Allegro. The restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel, thus became the first ever restaurant in the former eastern block to get this prestigious award.

The interest of the Michelin inspectors gives another chance to Maze this year. The key condition for necessary to acquire a star is a sufficient number of evaluating visits.

The positive nature of the inspectors’ references remains uncertain. The empty tables at Maze around noon every day also provide an evaluation.

“We do not have fewer customers than our competition. Maze looks empty because it has a greater number of tables,” Carmichael said.

This argument is weak, however. Restaurant La Rotond in Alcron hotel has a similar number of places and is usually half full. Something Maze cannot boast about at noon.

And all that despite the fact that the meals served at the restaurant, which is part of the Hilton Old Town hotel, are one of the most interesting culinary experiences that Prague has to offer.

Venison svíčková with swede from Carmichael’s kitchen, caresses the taste buds long after its last traces have been washed down with Cabernet Moravia.

Chef versus waiters

What is behind the empty tables, then? The answer is one word: staff. In a restaurant aspiring to a Michelin star, waiters should not ask customers how they like the meal before they have started eating and the sommelier should not carry away the dirty dishes.

You also should not find a waiter lurking behind the door asking newcomers their names in order to get a “reference”.

Czech gourmands have been so displeased by similar irritating details, which are not few at Maze, that they entered a negative evaluation into the planned dining guide Grand Restaurant.

“Maze did not get into the Top 10,” Pavel Maurer, the guide’s publisher told Hospodářské noviny. He thinks it is the experts who value Maze more.

“Maze failed in the public vote,” said Maurer in anticipation of the annual dining vote that will be published at the beginning of December.

“Expectations were very high, and some people are therefore disappointed,” said Libor Ševčík, a Czech food critic. His colleague, Vladimír Poštulka, agreed. “The food might be perfect but the service plays an important role in the final impression.”

Not even a meal prepared by Gordon Ramsay himself will be delicious at a place where the waiter brushes the crumbs off your table in between courses.

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