Spanish dominate world's best restaurants list
The results were leaked, Noma was no longer at the top. But no one was unduly concerned.
These things are bound to happen -- the 11th World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards show went on.
What started out as a feature in the UK-based Restaurant magazine is now the most revered and sought after accolade in the business. As Richard Vines, UK and Ireland chair of the awards and chief food critic at Bloomberg, says, “It's the restaurant industry's equivalent of the Oscars.”
Its influence can be summed up by Noma chef Rene Redzepi's tweet before the awards last year: “1,204 people on the waiting list for this evening. Same day in 2008 -- 14 guests in all day.”
And let’s hope Redzepi made the most of his past three years on top -- his Noma restaurant has been knocked down a peg to second spot by Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca, last year’s second-placed restaurant.
"We don’t know if we are the best restaurant but you can be sure that we will continue to work with authenticity, generosity, hospitality and of course creativity," said Joan Roca, chef at El Celler de Can Roca, during his acceptance speech.
Spain took two other spots in the top 10, Mugaritz (4th) and Arzak (8th) completing the hat trick.
Perhaps it's appropriate that Spain was so roundly honored this year. Modern Spanish cuisine is arguably the hottest thing at the world's dinner tables these days. See our recent article: Spanish cuisine: Best food in the world right now?
That Latino influence will be explored further, when Restaurant magazine launches its South America's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, following the launch of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in February this year.
Here are this year's winners.
The top 10
1. El Celler de Can Roca, Spain
Gaining top spot for the first time is El Celler de Can Roca.
The restaurant not only keeps but propels Catalan cuisine on the World's Best Restaurants list. The three brothers who own this ultra-modern restaurant in the industrial town of Girona are jokers as well as clever cooks.
They start dinners off with caramelized olives, which come to the table on bonsai trees; from there diners get classic Catalan ingredients that made the region famous in the days when Ferran Adria of elBulli was king.
2. Noma, Denmark
Knocked off the top spot after a three-year reign, the minimalist Noma offers Nordic food -- anything from Greenland musk ox to tiny shrimp from the Faroe Islands.
Herbs, grasses and berries foraged by the chefs also feature. And the chefs, who come here from all over the world to study with Rene Redzepi, bring their food direct to the table themselves.
The restaurant is in a charming old warehouse reached by ferry from Copenhagen harbor.
3. Osteria Francescana, Italy
Now up in the number three spot is Osteria Francescana.
Massimo Bottura has put Modena firmly on the dining map without pretension or fuss, despite winning a third Michelin star.
Dinner might start with something as simple as a perfect plate of coppa ham before Massimo starts shaking it up a bit.
He has the advantage of being in the heart of Emilia-Romagna. Italy’s foodiest region, it’s home to both the spaghetti Bolognese and parmesan cheese eaten by Italo-holics the world over.
4. Mugaritz, Spain
Slipping down one place is Mugaritz.
Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz whips up food that looks nothing like fare that will knock your socks off.
You might get a single piece of white hake on a white plate, or a potato resembling a stone all on its own in a bowl.
5. Eleven Madison Park, United States
Eleven Madison is led by Swiss chef Daniel Humm.
This New York restaurant has sky-rocketed to stardom. Last year it leaped 14 places up the Best 50 list to spot 10, and went from a single Michelin star to three. This year, it climbed further to number 5.
Diners are expected to choose one core ingredient for each of their four courses for what’s described by Restaurant magazine as “a dynamic but relaxed dining experience that’s deeply rooted in New York.”
6. D.O.M., Brazil
Despite a rumor it might be number one, D.O.M. came in at number six, down from fourth spot last year.
Chef-patron Alex Atala has taken the humblest native fare -- palm hearts and cassava -- and put them on plates along with rarer produce of the Amazonian rainforest.
Expect to hear a lot more about cambuca fruit, manioc root and tucupi juice, with other Brazilians coming up the list behind him.
In the heart of Sao Paolo, the waiting list is still pretty long for this 50-seat restaurant.
7. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, England
A perhaps somewhat unexpected climb was Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Heston Blumental made his name with snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream.
But at Dinner -- in London’s Mandarin Oriental hotel -- Blumenthal has gone for historic British recipes dating back as far as the 14th century.
Thanks to Dinner, a new word is bound to enter the Oxford Dictionary -- the meat-fruit is Heston’s most famous confection, actually a chicken liver parfait cunningly disguised as a mandarin orange.
8. Arzak, Spain
Rooted at number 8 is Arzak.
The restaurant serves classic Basque cuisine with random surprises like computer screens as dinner plates.
Evolution has kept this fourth-generation restaurant founded in the 19th century, at the forefront of the world’s culinary achievements -- only what you’d expect from the first family of San Sebastian.
Father and daughter Juan-Mari and Elena Arzak collaborated with Ferran Adria on molecular experiments back in the day, and still have their own food lab above the restaurant.
But in spite of dishes like monkfish and gooseberries being served on computer screens, classic Basque cuisine is at the heart of the place, and it’s a very cozy, old-fashioned room where everyone feels like family within five minutes of arriving.
9. Steirereck, Austria
Breaking into the top 10 for the first time this year is Steirereck.
Housed in an art deco building, the restaurant has views across the river Wien. Its dishes are Styrian inspired -- chef Heinz Reitbauer's roots.
The restaurant is all about farm-to-table dining. The chef has his own farm and works with a cooperative of farmers who supply the restaurant.
That means the menu changes daily according to what the freshest product is.
10. Vendôme, Germany
Another first timer in the top 10 is Vendôme in Germany, which climbed up from number 23 last year.
The name is borrowed from a town in France but the food is firmly German.
The restaurant has a serious menu though -- the longest is 25 courses!
The ultimate dish is probably the venison with pine-needle jelly and celery cream.
Best of the rest
One to watch: The Test Kitchen, South Africa
Head chef Luke Dale-Roberts is British born and trained in Switzerland and England before heading to Asia to broaden his horizons. His collaborative kitchen is all about mixing old and new techniques, serving guests in an ultra-industrial space.
Lifetime achievement award: Alain Ducasse
With over 30 years in the restaurant industry, Alain Ducasse boasts an impressive empire. Of his 24 restaurants, spread over three continents, three have attained and maintained three-star Michelin status. Numerous chefs who have trained with him have also gone on to open their own successful Michelin-starred restaurants.
Best female chef: Nadia Santini
Mantuan restaurant Dal Pescatore’s Nadia Santini was the first female chef in Italy to earn three Michelin stars for what started out as a simple osteria. Dal Pescatore is also the only restaurant that Santini has ever worked at.
Attica, Melbourne at 21: Highest new entry, a restaurant defined by the daily forage of its chef Ben Shewry.
Restaurant Andre, Singapore at 38: French food by Taiwanese born chef Andre Chiang, in Singapore's Chinatown.
8½ Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong at 39: Named after a Federico Fellini film.
Piazza Duomo, Italy at 41: A mix of edgy creations with regional classics.
Mr & Mrs Bund, China at 43: The first restaurant from mainland China on the list.
Mani, Brazil at 46: Husband and wife chef team mixing Spanish with Brazilian.
Septime, France at 49: A Parisian bistro without the haute.
Central, Lima at 50: Rooted in Peruvian cuisine but with an international influence.
World's best restaurants 11-50
11. Per Se, New York, USA
12. Frantzén/Lindeberg, Stockholm, Sweden
13. The Ledbury, London, UK
14. Astrid y Gastón, Lima, Peru
15. Alinea, Chicago, USA
16. L’Arpège, Paris, France
17. Pujol, Mexico City, Mexico
18. Le Chateaubriand, Paris, France
19. Le Bernardin, New York, USA
20. Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan
21. Attica, Melbourne, Australia
22. Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo, Japan
23. L’Astrance, Paris, France
24. L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon, Paris, France
25. Hof Van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Belgium
27. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
28. Mirazur Menton, France
29. Daniel, New York, USA
30. Aqua Wolfsburg, Germany
31. Biko, Mexico City, Mexico
32. Nahm, Bangkok, Thailand
33. The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
34. Fäviken, Järpen, Sweden
35. Oud Sluis, Sluis, Netherlands
36. Amber, Hong Kong
37. Vila Joya, Albufeira, Portugal
38. Restaurant Andre, Singapore
39. 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong
40. Combal.Zero, Rivoli, Italy
41. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy
42. Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland
43. Mr & Mrs Bund, Shanghai, China
44. Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo, Spain
45. Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark
46. Mani, São Paulo, Brazil
47. The French Laundry, Yountville, USA
48. Quay, Sydney, Australia
49. Septime, Paris, France
50. Central, Lima, Peru