When we think of Michelin-star cuisine, we often imagine meals costing in the hundreds, elegantly served in tiny, bite-sized portions by eccentric and flamboyant chefs. We imagine luxury of the highest class, but that does not define Michelin-star dining. Around the world, there are some great examples of acclaimed cuisine on a budget. When travelling on some of our great cruise deals, you’ll be able to experience some amazing food at staggeringly low prices. In this article, we look at the eight cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.
What does having a Michelin-star actually mean?
In 1900, French tyre manufacturer Michelin wanted to encourage people to buy cars. To do so, they published the first Michelin Guide. This guide contained lots of useful information including maps, hotels, petrol stations and even tyre repair guides. As the years progressed the guides increased in popularity and became more widespread.
In 1926 the guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments, and ten years later the criteria for the star ranking was published:
One star: A very good restaurant in its category
Two-star: Excellent cooking, worth a detour
Three-star: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
The popularity of the guide has grown exponentially since then and there is now a multitude of restaurants around the world that hold these accolades. All the restaurants featured in this article are one-star establishments.
We spoke to Jen Avery from Thrifty Nomads, a great travel blog which focuses on the cheaper side of travel. We asked why she believes trying local cuisines when travelling is important: “Food is a connection to culture, place, and people. It represents regional tastes, local produce, long-held traditions, and is one of the quickest ways to immerse yourself into a foreign country. Thanks to the brain's strong connection between taste and memory, one can even transport themselves back to a place or time long after ending a trip, simply by seeking out a favoured national dish or snack or learning to prepare it themselves. Indeed, food is an imprinted part of one's travel experiences, no matter how humble or high-end the eats that have been sampled.”
Jen then told us why seeking out Michelin-star food when travelling is a great way to experience the cuisine: “Michelin star food is an indicator of distinguished quality, so seeking out Michelin restaurants can be a great way to sample superior eats while abroad. In recent years, Michelin has begun awarding stars to even street food stalls and smaller-scale simple restaurants, where taste and food quality is still outstanding. This now means that some Michelin-star restaurants can offer a local, genuine quality experience that doesn't have to break the bank.”
The most affordable Michelin-star restaurants in the world:
Established in 1862, Lao Zheng Xing is thought to be the oldest Shanghainese restaurant in the city. It’s a rich part of the city’s culinary history and is thought to be responsible for creating some of Singapore’s classic dishes. The restaurant’s premises, which it moved to in 1997, are large however reservations are still required, so make sure you book early in order to try their signature fried river shrimps and braised sea cucumbers! Dishes on the à la carte menu will cost you around £14.10.
We spoke to Fred Lin, musician and food blogger at The Shanghai Kid, who told us why the cuisine in Shanghai is so special: “Shanghai is special because it is not only the melting pot of Chinese food cultures, where Chinese mainlanders from all provinces and cities of China come together but also a congregation of global food cultures, attracting foreigners from all walks of life and professions to the city. Naturally, various food cravings arise from the foreigners, and a supply-demand chain is established. Interestingly, there is little fusion in Shanghai, instead, you can find some of the best and most authentic French, Italian, European, New American, Japanese and South East Asian food here.”
We then asked Fred why he believed there are so many Michelin-worthy restaurants in the city: “Today, we have some of the best chefs from Italy, France, America and also from other provinces of China cooking in Shanghai. That is why Shanghai has so many Michelin-worthy restaurants and dare I say many that haven’t been featured yet.”
Address: 556 Fuzhou Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200000
The Three Coins in Taipei, Taiwan, offers traditional Cantonese food to all of its patrons. The restaurant is owned by an artist, and thus it enjoys excellent décor and a great atmosphere. The menu consists of traditional Cantonese dishes, and it’s known for it’s Peking duck and wholemeal flatbread; steamed abalone with fresh sundried tomatoes; and chicken soup with bitter teas seed oil. Eat à la carte from around £11.40.
Address: No. 46號, Hengyang Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Ginza Ibuki is an inconspicuous restaurant located in the Ginza district of Tokyo. They serve traditional Japanese cuisine and the modest prices mean it’s great for a casual lunch dining spot. As well as having incredible dishes Ginza Ibuki also benefits from an interesting sake list, the perfect accompaniment to any Japanese meal. At lunchtime, you’ll be able to enjoy a set lunch menu for around £9.90.
Address: Japan, 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chūō, Ginza, 2 Chome−14−6 第2松岡ビル
Jay Fai, in Bangkok, is not only the name of the restaurant but also the name of the head chef, who, wearing her signature goggles, continues to create distinct dishes she and her father started creating over 70 years ago. The stand is popular amongst locals and tourists, and not dish is more popular than her crab omelettes, rich with batter and flaky crab meat, fried up before your eyes. You can eat à la carte here from around £9, however, the acclaimed crab omelette will cost you around £20.
Address: 327 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
Chugokusai S.Sawada serves up Hong Kong-style dishes at lunch and dinner. The dishes like spicy chicken, grilled crab dumplings and dan-dan noodle stir-fries are a great hallmark of Hong Kong cuisine done right. The ‘must-try’ dish is the ‘Crispy Kaoridori Chicken from Tochigi’, which, thanks to its preparation is filled with fragrant flavours. The set lunch menu here will put you back about £7.40.
Address: 4 Chome-6-28 Nishitenma, Kita, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0047, Japan
Seoul, South Korea
In Gyeongsang province dialect, ‘Hamo’ means ‘of course’. In everything they do Hamo honours traditional Jinju-style cuisine, and because of this, their dishes are simple but incredibly powerful. With dishes like Jinju Bibimbap topped with raw beef and traditional Korean stir-fry Joseon Japchae you’ll love the unique flavours and cuisine style you find here. Eat à la carte here from around £5.60.
Address: 819 Eonju-ro, Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Although the original location is in Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan is actually an established chain restaurant with stores around the world. There is no more authentic experience than in its home premises, however. The lines are often long, but dishes are cheap and plentiful and will make you want to come back for more. Tim Ho Wan serves a great range of dim sum but they are most well known for their flavoursome pork buns. Sample their 3 of their signature baked pork buns for only £1.90.
We spoke to Xiao, a Toronto based food blogger at XiaoEats who often travels the world in search of new flavours. We asked why she believes trying different foods is such an important part of travelling: “Food is one of my main reasons for travelling. I love trying out new foods and it’s such a wonderful way to experience a new culture. For me, exploring new spices, flavours and ingredients is as much a part of travelling as visiting museums and tourist attractions. My husband and I always try to take a cooking class in every country we visit so we can bring some of the flavours and techniques home with us. Being able to make a dish from our travels is the best souvenir.”
Xiao has previously visited Tim Ho Wan whilst in Hong Kong, we asked how her experience was: “We arrived early, before the doors opened, so luckily were able to be seated without a long wait. To be honest, if I hadn’t known about their Michelin star ahead of time, I wouldn’t have guessed the award. The full experience was similar to many of our other dim sum meals in Hong Kong. Delicious, affordable and relaxed. Every bite was tasty and the service was fine. What truly stood out was their baked BBQ pork buns.”
Finally, we asked what dish she would recommend: “The baked BBQ pork buns were amazing and definitely Michelin star worthy. Filled with a saucy cha siu pork and topped with a sweet, crumbly confection, these buns were spectacular. Order at least one per person, if not more.”
Address: 18 Hoi Ting Rd, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
Top of the list of the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant in the world is Hawker Chan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, known more commonly as Hawker Chan. This traditional hawker store offers incredibly cheap meals to Singapore locals who are looking for a quick bite to eat. The simplicity of the dishes here is what makes them so different from the usual Michelin-star fare. Soya sauce chicken and rice is their signature dish and what put them in the guide, even better, it only costs £2 a portion.
We spoke to Juliana, food blogger and wife of Michelin-star chef. She blogs about food, travel and life at Chicken Scrawlings. We asked Juliana why she believes trying new cuisines is such an important part of travel: “Food is the backbone of a country’s local culture. It reflects the climate, local produce and way of life. Being open to trying local foods gives one a window into the local culture and enriches travel experiences.”
We then asked Juliana how her experience at Hawker Chan was: “Apart from the long queues that move fairly quickly, it was delish. I’m a local Singaporean that has lived abroad the last 14 years, so it’s always a treat digging into local fare. I just had his soya sauce chicken rice in Macau at their Michelin Street food Festival last month.”
“The signature dish is soya sauce chicken. You can order it with rice - ask for extra sauce, or with perfect al dente noodles, depending which you prefer, they are very different but both equally tasty.”
We also got in touch with Rosemary and Claire at Authentic Food Quest, who told us why trying different foods whilst travelling is so important to them: “Opening up to the local and unique flavours of a destination is a unique way of experiencing it. You get to bite into and “taste” the local culture and end up with a deeper appreciation of the place. Food is sensorial which makes you fully engaged. Your senses come alive in such a primal way that can’t compared to the passivity of visiting monuments and sites.”
They told us about their experience at Hawker Chan: “We approached our first Michelin Starred meal from a hawker centre with a mixture of curiosity and scepticism. Fortunately, all concerns were cast aside. The brand-new stand-alone restaurant was bright and inviting. And, the food delivers. The perfectly prepared and seasoned award-winning meal is a beautiful explosion of tastes and textures. For a one-star Michelin meal for under $5.00, you can’t go wrong.
“The main attraction at Hawker Chan is to taste the Michelin Star Cantonese-style soya sauce chicken rice. Glistening chicken with steaming white rice, topped off with a light soya sauce is the meal to have. The dish is accompanied with a side of soybeans and a slightly spicy dipping sauce made with red chili and garlic.”
Finally, we spoke to Christy Ma, travel blogger at Lolleroll who spoke to us about her visit to Hawker Chan: “Trying local food always tops my 'to-do' lists when travelling. I'm a huge foodie so it's inspiring to discover interesting combinations of flavours, or simply new ingredients. The really local spots are often charmingly affordable and gives you the opportunity to see and immerse yourself into the local's lifestyle.
“Hawker Centres are a huge part of Singapore's dining culture. It's always an amazing experience because you get an excellent variety of dishes to choose from, great quality and shockingly low prices. Even though Hawker Chan has one Michelin Star, it's actually still on the cheaper end of hawker centre food. If that sounds too good to be true, that's because it sort of is - while the food is great, the catch is that there is always a long queue. At what we thought was an awkward 10:50am on a Monday, we still had to wait 35 minutes.
Christy also recommended the soya chicken, but with noodles instead of rice: “I'd definitely recommend the soya chicken with noodles and ask for chicken leg (requires an extra SGD2). The chicken was good quality and juicy. I’d also recommend getting the noodles instead of the rice – they had a pleasant chewy al dente texture. The mix of sauces were also delicious.
Address: 78 Smith Street, Singapore 058972