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The Women Behind the UK’s New 3 Michelin Star Restaurants

Two London restaurants won the 3 star accolade, both helmed by women.

In the Great Britain & Ireland 2021 Michelin Guide launched this week, two of the Guide's highest gongs were given to restaurants both helmed by women, CORE by Clare Smyth, and Hélène Darroze at The ConnaughtBoth were promoted from two stars to three. 

That takes the number of British triple Michelin starred restaurants to seven, with the others being the Waterside Inn, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Sketch (The Lecture Room & Library) and The Fat Duck.

In a year when many venues were shuttered due to the pandemic, some restaurants rose to face the challenges in an inspiring way, according to the Michelin Guide in a statement. Here is a closer look at the amazing chefs behind the UK's newest triple star eateries. 

CORE by Clare Smyth, 92 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2PN

Core is the debut restaurant of Clare Smyth, an award-winning chef who grew up on a farm in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. She moved to England at the age of 16, and worked her way up to become Chef Patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Hospital Road. 

She has since received the World’s Best Female Chef Award by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and an MBE for services to hospitality, among various other awards.

Opened in August 2017, her restaurant is a discreet, elegant space with a cool, serene feel; flowers and accessories on the wooden tables echo the seasons and even the crockery is specially commissioned to match the mood.

There is a choice of two different tasting menus – ‘Core Classics’, which features dishes that Clare has continually refined over the years, and ‘Core Seasons’, which sees more contemporary constructions with a luxurious edge. Alternatively, there’s the à la carte, which lists all of the dishes from both. Currently the restaurant is closed due to COVID restrictions but CORE is offering a delivery option in London of 7 courses and a bottle of Champagne for £175 per person. 

These are some of the Michelin Inspectors’ favourite dishes:

Isle of Mull scallop tartare with sea vegetable consommé
A divine, full-flavoured, silky diced scallop, beautifully presented on a large scallop shell and surrounded by a raised bed of seaweed. Natural aromas and flavours transport you to the sea and the light sea vegetable broth spiked with herb oil has layer upon layer of flavour.

‘Beef and Oyster’ – Highland Wagyu beef and Porthilly oysters
A highly refined and sophisticated dish comprising a perfectly cooked, plump oyster and melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu beef with a flavoursome jus and oyster cream. Buttery mash and a rich mix of oysters and chopped beef in a dark, sticky jus fill the oyster shell – and the oyster cracker is exquisite.

‘Core-teaser’ – chocolate, malt and hazelnut
This stunning-looking dessert might look large but it’s actually incredibly light. A play on the flavours of a Malteaser, it has a hazelnut mousse core encased in a delicate chocolate shell and is topped with a malt-flavoured creation akin to candy floss, which crunches in the mouth before melting away. An imaginative and memorable dish.

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Carlos Place, London, W1K 2AL

Fourth-generation French chef, Hélène Darroze splits her time between London and Paris and Moscow, where she has a restaurant in each city. But with Hélène Darroze at The Connaught now with a triple star rating to uphold, she may be spending more of her time in the British capital. Darroze took over the restaurant at The Connaught hotel in 2008, it was awarded a Michelin star in 2009 and then a second in 2011, and a third this week.

Following a 2 month closure at the end of 2019, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught recently reopened with a more feminine, less formal look, while also managing to retain its traditional elegance and excellent service. Created by French designer Pierre Yovanovitch, the room is now a brighter place to dine, with its salmon pink ceiling, light wood panelling and exposed wood offset with two Damien Hirst butterfly collages. 

The cooking, too, has moved on a level, under the watchful eye of Head Chef Marco Zampese and a highly skilled kitchen team who prepare a 3 course set priced lunch and a 5 or 7 course tasting menu at dinner. In these COVID times, they also offer a delivery service within London of a stunning 5-course tasting menu for £195, or pick-up.

The cooking is influenced by Hélène’s homeland, with refined French-based dishes centred on one superb main ingredient, then enhanced with subtle international touches. For the ultimate experience, oenophiles can book the private room beside the wine cellar, while foodies can dine at the chef’s table in front of the pass.

Here are some of the Michelin Inspectors’ favourite dishes:

Wild sea bass, champignon, walnut, lardo di Colonnata and Douglas pine
Slices of lightly cured sea bass assembled in a delicate mille feuille of chestnut mushrooms and lardo – the richness of the mushrooms and the saltiness of the lardo perfectly complement the fish. On the side, walnut purée, mushroom broth and Douglas pine provide a delicious accompaniment and add depth of flavour.

Westcombe ricotta, Ardi Gasna, voatsiperifery pepper and onion consommé
Handmade agnolotti pasta with strands of truffle running through it and a contrastingly soft, creamy filling. The sweetness of the onions – and hints of acidity from some pickling – offset the ricotta and Ardi Gasna cheeses, while the onion consommé adds intensity. The contrasting textures and tastes make this a delicious dish.

Signature Baba – Armagnac Darroze with pineapple, passion fruit, Tahitian vanilla and coconut sugar Chantilly
A rich, elaborately presented dish, where the golden baba is sliced at the table and then covered with a choice from three different vintages of Armagnac aged by Hélène’s brother Marc. The baba is beautifully light in texture and the Chantilly cream’s luxurious flavour works perfectly with the liquor. The passion fruit and the roasted pineapple add both a light, fruity flavour and a subtle acidity.