A series of omissions of high-flying restaurants in this year's Which? Good Food Guide has sparked accusations that a new inspection and editorial regime has led to corners being cut.
The Consumers' Association-owned guide, part of the hospitality landscape since 1951, overhauled the way it inspected and reviewed restaurants for this year's edition. It has incorporated 300 reader-recommended restaurants within its 1,200 full entries.
But former inspectors led by veteran Catharine Steele-Kroon, who resigned over the changes last November, are concerned that this has led to a general lowering of standards and some glaring omissions.
Steele-Kroon told Caterer: "I didn't come across one instance of a restaurant omission that seemed to be based on real, solid, well-researched facts."
Another former inspector and editor, Jim Ainsworth, described the new regime as "penny-pinching" and said of this year's guide: "The word that occurs to me is careless. A lot of things simply appear to have been done in a rush."
St Martin's on the Isle in the Scilly Isles, rated 6/10 last year, has been omitted despite being listed as a main entry on the guide's map of the island. Executive head chef Kenny Atkinson said: "It's hurting us and I feel like we've been banging our heads against a brick wall."
Graham Garrett, chef and proprietor of the Michelin-starred West House in Biddenden, Kent, which was rated 5/10 last year, said he was "gobsmacked" to be left out this year.
But Which? has strongly denied the allegations. Head of book publishing Angela Newton conceded that some former inspectors had been "disgruntled" at the changes, but stressed that most of the inspection team was unchanged and there had been no reduction in standards.
"The overhaul has been enormous and all of that is in response to reader feedback," she said. "Sales are up and we've had some really good feedback from the majority of our readers."
By Nic Paton