Award-winning Scottish hotel ‘walks away’ from its Michelin star

The dining room at Boath House country hotel near Nairn
The dining room at Boath House country hotel near Nairn
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An award-winning Scottish country house hotel has said it is “walking away” from its Michelin star, claiming that the accolade had dented its profits and is discouraging customers.

Boath House near Nairn has enjoyed a place in the coveted guide for almost 10 years, but its owners said they did not expect to be included in the latest edition, due to be published next week.

Charlie Lockey, head chef at Boath House

Charlie Lockey, head chef at Boath House

Owners Don and Wendy Matheson said they wanted to “re-evaluate their relationship” with Michelin and hoped to encourage more local residents to visit the hotel and restaurant.

“Whilst we are extremely proud of the Michelin star we gained 10 years ago and it undoubtedly enhanced our reputation, our restaurant has consistently made a loss,” Mrs Matheson said.

“We believe that the expectations from Michelin are at odds with achievable profit margins and put an enormous stress on a small family-run business like ours.”

Last week the celebrated French chef Sebastien Bras asked for his restaurant to be dropped from the guide, saying he disliked the “huge pressure” it placed on him and his staff.

Le Suquet, in the southern French village of Laguiole, has held three Michelin stars since 1999 but Mr Bras said he wanted to work without trying to impress the guide’s undercover inspectors.

Boath House is a Georgian mansion set in 22 acres of parkland with an ornamental lake, streams and a walled garden dating back to around 1550. It has held four AA rosettes since 2006 and a Michelin star since 2009.

Mr Matheson said the couple did not bear any “malice” towards the Michelin Guide, but were simply “walking away” from the idea of formal dining that it represented.

“We’re not being driven by anything other than what the customer wants,” he told i. “We no longer want to be perceived as part of that elitist, formal, one-arm-up-the-back business. We want to be seen as a very welcoming and informal.

“People don’t seem to want to dine six-course formally every night. Nobody packs a jacket and tie any more. People do come in dressed up, but it’s more and more rare. The days of people putting on their dinner jackets and kilts are gone.”

He said the hotel was not demanding to be taken out of the Michelin Guide, but was expecting to lose its star as a result of the changes it had made to its dining experience.

The hotel is planning to open a more casual cafe in its walled garden next year, having already made changes to its dining room giving diners less expensive options.

Rebecca Burr, the editor of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland, said there was “absolutely no formula for winning or retaining a Michelin star”.

She added: “There has certainly been a trend towards more informal dining over the past 10 years or so, and in fact Michelin has been at the absolute forefront of recognising and celebrating that.”