Never has a Michelin awards ceremony been filled with as many tense Irish people as last night's in The Hurlingham Club in London, but the palpable anxiety in the room was rewarded with the news that Ireland has two new two-starred restaurants. The Greenhouse on Dawson Street was elevated from one to two stars, while Aimsir in Kildare went straight into the guide at two stars - something that rarely happens. Before yesterday Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud was the only two-star in the country, since Thornton's lost their second star in 2005 (they lost the remaining one in 2015 and closed the year after.)
Mickael Viljanen, head chef at The Greenhouse almost combusted following the announcement, a mixture of disbelief and total relief on his face as he walked towards the stage. He lifted Raymond Blanc into the air with elation, which ended in them both falling to the ground - luckily no chefs had to be hospitalised in the making of this award. He was so overcome that he forgot to pose for his official photograph, and had to be called back after being interviewed on stage by cringe-inducing presenter Amanda Stretton.
There probably would have been a revolt if Aimsir in Kildare hadn't gone straight in at two stars but luckily no one had to storm the stage. Chef Jordan Bailey, formerly head chef at three-starred Maemo in Oslo, and wife Majken Bech-Bailey appeared genuinely stunned, with Bech-Bailey in tears.
The other big Dublin winner last night was Variety Jones who were awarded a star for their open-fire cooking on Thomas Street just nine months after opening (you can read our VJ once over here). The team only got the call telling them they were invited last Wednesday, and rumours were circulating on Twitter yesterday that they had cancelled all reservations for the start of this week. It also transpired that Irish Times food editor Marie-Claire Digby's teasing tweet earlier in the day referred to the Variety Jones team. The whole team celebrated later at The Laughing Heart in Bethnal Green.
There was confusion amongst the Irish media and some watching at home when Damien Grey from Liath wasn't announced as a new star holder. The assumption had been made that Liath was a new restaurant, and therefore would be announced as a new one (or two) star, but when the awards ceremony ended with no mention of them there were a few minutes of panicked messages and glances, followed by a run outside to grab the guide, which confirmed that the team had been awarded a star. It was classed as a retention from Heron & Grey which is why it wasn't announced on stage.
New stars were also awarded to The Oak Room in Adare Manor, Bastion in Kinsale and The Muddlers Club in Belfast. There were no starred deletions from the guide this year, meaning that Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud has held onto their two stars, while Chapter One and L'Ecrivain held on to their one.
The Michelin guide 2020 is undoubtedly going to further help put the spotlight on Ireland and Irish food as something worth travelling for, and if things keep going the way they are expect more stars next year. In Dublin we'll be keeping a close eye on Potager, Bastible and Niall Davidson's Allta, and would like to see Liath elevated to two stars, but 12 months is a long time in restaurants. Who knows where else could be a contender by next October.