5 APRIL 1963, Page 30

Consuming Interest

Places to Eat


MR. EGON RONAY is out tO give value for money with Far from it; I would insist that with this edition of his guide Mr. Ronay at last becomes a serious competitor to Mr. Raymond Postgate and the Consumers' Association, the first edition of whose Good Food Guide (as a joint venture) has just been issued (Cassell, 12s. 6d.). Looking uncannily like a paperback Michelin, the neW GFG tackles just over 1,000 eating places in thP British Isles, but pays far less attention to London than the Ronay guide. Where Mr. Ronay lists (unnumbered, I had to count the lot on my fingers) 204 restaurants in London and 252 pubs, Mr. Postgate and his thousands of volunteer 'inspectors' manage to describe only 164 restaurants.

The London pub guide in the Ronay publica- tion is great fun, with thumbnail sketch-maps to guide the adventurous. But here I will omit 3 feeble protest; there is some duplication where a pub, like the Angel, Rotherhithe, also has a good restaurant. A minor matter; like the inclusion of the Institute of Directors' restaurant. Mr. RonaY has put in six clubs, including this one, but while you can join the others (like The Whig and Pen) for money and a little sponsorship, to enter the sacred portals of 10 Belgrave Square you also ha.ve to be a company director—and that's another £25 to form the company. Perhaps clubs should be listed separately. Both these guides are good value, but the Postgate one scores on the out-of-London listings (because of the help given by the Good Food Club members), while the Ronay guidebook is. much more helpful on London. My persofla! preference, if it comes to a general choice, wonl° be for the Good Food Guide, partly because the method of compilation (from information volun- tarily supplied by members who have no axes to grind and nothing to gain from dispensin,gs favour) seems preferable. In spite of Mr. RonaY1. claim to use a similar method (he, too, has a i, work, but it is not clear whether it is voluntatYr: the fact remains that it is taken to be a one-rna book, and restaurateurs would put their best foot forward if that man visited them for a meal. By chance, while I was preoccupied with tho` British guides to Britain, a friend found in 3 secondhand bookshop and lent me a copy of the Michelin Guide to Great Britain which was Published here during the 1920s. The basic code of symbols was the same as that still used in the French guide, but there were five stars in those days for the de luxe, haute cui.sine restaurants. London had five in the \Vest End, the Maison Doreen the Savoy, the Berkeley, the Cafe de Paris and the Ritz, and the Lyons Corner Houses rated two and even three stars. It has been rumoured that one day the Michelin inspectors will be at work in Britain again. If they do, with the thoroughness and attention to detail that charac- terises their work in France, neither Ronay nor Postgate will be able to compare.

The 1963 Michelin has just been published and, by now, everyone who cares will know that Madame Brazier has regained her three coveted stars for Mere Brazier (near Lyons), demoted to .one in 1959. Apart from the Honours List atmos- phere that. surrounds the award of these orders of Merit, based as they are on ruthless expertise, the Michelin system stands out because of the absolute thoroughness of the information. By consulting the guide I know, for example, not only that I can get a good meal (one star) at Duplantin in the avenue Villiers in Paris, but that there is a good table wine available at four francs and that no one will deafen me with the radio

while 1 eat, apart from other •items of informa- tion:, such as the speciaiite de la MaiSOfi and the price range, 'closing .days and so on, all in two lines of code.

I have heard complaints that the star system of the Michelin isUlm reliable, and that readers have occasionally been disappointed in a one-star restaurant: A careful reading of the introduction helps, because there are two points to note. First, that one star awarded in an area noted for its cooking is likely to be worth two in an area not so distinguished, and that single stars are awarded sometimes for a special dish, or for the most expensive plot that the restaurant does. Note, too, that the knives and forks do not refer to the standard of cooking but to the comfort of a restaurant, This year the Michelin (distributed in the UK by the Dickens Press, 4 Upper Thames Street, EC4, price 22s. 6d.) includes 300 more places at which to eat and/or stay and a sign (white L on a black disc) denoting self-drive car-hire garages.

Local consumer groups took a big step for- ward recently when they formed a national federation whose first chairman will be Mr. Aubrey Diamond, lecturer in law at the London School of Economics and author of The Con- sumer and the Law. There are now thirk -tivo local groups 1.■,ith a total membership of over 4..000 and four more groups will hold their in- augural meetings in the next few weeks. For the benefit of any reader who may want to join a local group, let me list the places where groups are now operating. They are in Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Bromley, Cam- bridge, Cardiff, Chesham and Amersham, Craw- fey, Cumberland, Darlington, Edinburgh, Finchley and Hendon, Glasgow, Hampstead, High Wycombe, Leeds, Manchester, North Herts, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Rochdale, Severioaks, Southend, Sutton Coldfield, Swan- sea, Swindon, Tees-side, Twickenham-Richmond- Barnes, Tyneside and Watford. The four new ones will be in Camberley, Hemel Hempstead, South London and Totnes. If you want addresses or more details, please write to Mrs. J. Clifford Smith, Membership Relations Department, Con- sumers' Association, 14 Buckingham Street, WC2 (WH Itehall 9921), According to a survey reported in the March issue of Chemical Products 31 per cent of British women now use nail varnish, while only 28 per cent use varnish remover. I can only suppose that the odd 3 per cent bite it off.