IT IS the sort of restaurant for which, even at £300 a head, you need to book early. The Araki, in London’s Mayfair, has just nine seats and can accommodate only two sittings a night.
What’s more, with a single set menu, guests must eat what they are given. But the sushi venue, the creation of Mitsuhiro Araki, who brought his family here from Tokyo three years ago, has become one of only five in the UK to be awarded three Michelin stars for its cuisine.
All are in and around London. But at the unveiling today of the Michelin awards for 2018, a list which heavily favoured the capital, Yorkshire retained its place as the starriest provincial county in which to eat.
The region’s six Michelin-starred restaurants all retained their rankings, and six more - including, for the first time, Sheffield’s Jöro, Skosh in York and the Hope and Anchor at South Ferriby - were awarded Michelin’s Bib Gourmand for “good quality, good value cooking”.
There had been hopes that the tiny and picturesque Ryedale village of Harome, near Helmsley, would establish itself as the gastronomic centre of Yorkshire, with two world-class restaurants competing for attention.
Chef Andrew Pern’s Star Inn retained its rating but the nearby Pheasant, run by his former wife Jacquie and chef Peter Neville, was not on today’s list.
Mr Pern, who also runs York’s Star Inn The City, opened a speciality fish restaurant, The Star Inn the Harbour, at Whitby earlier this year.
Some 45 miles to the west of Harome, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill, near Pateley Bridge, also retained its star despite the decision of its chef, Frances Atkins, to step down.
Yorkshire’s other stars belong to chef Tommy Banks’ Black Swan at Oldstead, near Ampleforth, the Box Tree at Ilkley, the Pipe and Glass at South Dalton, near Beverley, and Michael O’Hare’s The Man Behind The curtain, in Leeds.
Simon Gueller, chef proprietor at the Box Tree, said: “After 14 years you know you must be doing something right, but it’s vital you don’t let complacency set in.”
Adam Smith, former head chef at the Burlington at Bolton Abbey, which was itself formerly on the Michelin list, was awarded a star for his new restaurant at the Coworth Park Hotel in Ascot.
Each will now receive, for the first time, a red enamel plaque to place outside, in a revival by Michelin of a tradition from the 1920s, in which restaurants were given awards to encourage motorists to travel further.
At today’s awards ceremony in London, Mr Araki and his family wept as they received their three stars from Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin guides.
Mr Ellis said: “When Mitsuhiro Araki moved to London from Tokyo in 2014 he set himself the challenge of using largely European fish and his sushi is now simply sublime.”
However, the coveted Michelin stars are no every restaurateur’s taste. Last week, the Boath House country hotel in Nairn, near Inverness, asked to be stripped of its star, saying its expectations were “at odds with achievable profit margins”, and that the cost of producing Michelin standard cooking was “too stressful.
A week earlier, the triple-starred French chef Sebastian Bras also asked for his restaurant to be dropped from the guide because he could “no longer stand the pressure”.