food & drink

The Michelin straight jacket

The ceremonies are over and the proud owners of last week's new Michelin stars have gone back to make sure they live up to their assumed reputations. This is an unusual accolade, which, after having been granted, does not allow the winner to relax. For owners and chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants, it usually means an increase in effort with definitely no time to take even a short break.

At Monday's presentation of SUR's new edition of 'Who's Who in Malaga Gastronomy' at Puente Romano, several of these precious individuals were being lionised, a far cry from the long-off days when no-one had the slightest idea what the Michelin Guide was, and even less what a star was supposed to signify, even as they were awarded them. Currently it is what many chefs spend their working lives thinking about.

Fortunately many more in the business, such as Santiago, of Marbella, are not interested, and have stated publicly their aversion to being squeezed into the Michelin straightjacket. In fact such an award would be the kiss of death for most of the Coast's excellent restaurant groups.

Ramón Mesa's La Pesquera group employs hundreds and consists of 26 restaurants throughout Spain, those located in Marbella being the tip of the iceberg. Da Bruno is also one of the biggest employers of kitchen and waiting staff in the area, and what these operations have in common are highly efficient management styles that are a million light years away from what some detractors used to call 'Spanish practices'. The charismatic Metro Group covers every culinary speciality from India to Argentina.

Malaga city centre is an even more difficult market than other towns on the Coast. José Gómez's La Reserva Group provides some of the best eating anywhere, but Gorki, which has just celebrated its 25th anniversary, can tell a tale or two. When Luis Higuera and Gonzalo Ramírez opened their first bar in Calle Strachan, the sophistication of existing conventional establishments was non-existent.

Gorki brought high quality cheeses, foie gras, and wines that changed the tapa-hour habits of 'Malagueños'. Gorki-owned places are now in Muelle Uno, El Candado, Merendero Antonio Martín and other locations, happily ploughing on with not a Michelin thought in mind.