Michelin’s Bib Gourmand guide is a great resource for those of us who love good food but can’t afford to eat in expensive restaurants, and is particularly relevant right now, given the current trend for more relaxed dining. Top restaurateurs including Marco Pierre White and Wolfgang Puck have gone on record to say that today’s diner prefers a friendlier, more informal eating experience, and Michelin’s website notes that their inspectors are likewise seeing a rise in simple, high-quality, low-price eateries, ideal candidates for the Bib Gourmand award. So if you want excellent food without having to worry if you’re using the right fork, your local Bib Gourmand bistro or gastropub could be the place for you.
This is not to say that all Michelin star restaurants are expensive. In the 2016 Singapore guide, chef Chan Hong Men’s Hawker Chan stall was awarded one Michelin star for a menu that included a soya sauce chicken rice and noodle dish costing the equivalent of around $2. It would be hard to beat Hawker Chan for value, but other budget-friendly Michelin starred establishments include British chef Tom Kerridge’s pub The Coach, contemporary American eatery Al’s Place in San Francisco, and tempura restaurant Ten-You in Kyoto, all of which currently hold one Michelin star.
In fact, there are several Michelin-starred restaurants that fall within the price range of a Bib Gourmand. So why are some awarded Michelin stars and others a Bib Gourmand? Of course, the exact criteria for any of Michelin’s coveted awards is a closely-guarded secret, but it does seem that the Michelin inspectors are looking out for different things for each. To win a Michelin star, a restaurant should serve unique, boundary-pushing cuisine, while a Bib Gourmand is more likely to offer comforting favourites at their very best. Michelin’s website describes the ideal Bib Gourmand as featuring ‘a simpler style of cooking, which is recognisable, easy-to-eat, and often something you feel you could attempt to replicate at home.’
The Bib Gourmand is featured in Michelin red guides all around the world. As of 2020, there are currently 3,362 restaurants that can boast a Bib Gourmand award. Perhaps unsurprisingly, France, the home of Michelin, has the highest number of Bib Gourmands, with a total of 557 in the 2020 guide, including 72 exciting new Bib Gourmands. France is followed by Japan, with 451 Bib Gourmands, while the United States comes third with 357, followed by Germany with 356, and Spain with 262. The number of Bib Gourmands in any country is often higher than those with Michelin stars, and with the list growing all the time, there’s every possibility that an unassuming little place not too far from you has a delicious secret just waiting to be discovered.