Noma Beats Competition for World’s Best Restaurant as El Bulli Rivals Grow

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  • Posted on April 18, 2011

    Chef Rene Redzepi. His Copenhagen-based Noma holds the title of ‘Best Restaurant in the World.’ Photo: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

    Chef Ferran Adria outside El Bulli which will close on July 30. Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

    Noma, the experimental restaurant in Copenhagen whose chef Rene Redzepi forages for ingredients, was tonight named the world’s best for the second straight year as competition intensified for the top spot.

    With the closure of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, north of Barcelona, another Spanish contender was the runner-up in the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in London. El Celler de Can Roca, run by three brothers in Girona, climbed two places after gaining one last year and now looks like a contender for the future best.

    Another Spanish establishment, Mugaritz, came third, followed by Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, in the U.K.

    The results were announced at a reception in London’s Guildhall that was attended by chefs and restaurateurs including Daniel Boulud, whose New York flagship Daniel slipped three places to 11th. Best in North America was Alinea, Chicago, which rose one place to sixth. The awards started as a feature in Restaurant magazine in 2002 and have grown to international prominence.

    “The World’s 50 Best is important because it’s a global tally and there aren’t many of those,” Boulud said today in an interview. “People compare it to the Michelin guide but they are completely different and we need them both. Also, this event brings together chefs from around the world. It’s almost creating a new family.”

    Les Creations de Narisawa, Tokyo, was best in Asia, jumping 12 places to 12th. The highest climber was Nihonryori RyuGin, in Tokyo, which jumped to 20th from 48th. Australasia’s best was Quay, Sydney, which advanced one position to 26th.

    Ledbury Enters

    Another U.K. winner was the Ledbury, Australian chef Brett Graham’s venue near Notting Hill, which was the highest new entry, taking 34th place.

    Adria’s El Bulli, which has been in the top three every year, will close for good on July 30, when it becomes a culinary academy. Chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, which won in 2003 and 2004, dropped out of the top 50, having placed at 32 last year. Others to go included Die Schwartzwaldstube, Jaan Par Andre, La Colombe, Mathias Dahlgren, Oaxen Krog, Tetsuya’s and wd~50.

    As generally is the case with the awards, which tend to favor experimentation and creativity over traditional excellence, French restaurants didn’t fare well. Only Le Chateaubriand, Paris, made it into the top 10, compared with three from Spain and two from the U.S. — Alinea and Per Se.

    Other U.S. establishments in the list included Le Bernardin (18th), Eleven Madison Park (which jumped 26 places to 24th) and Momofuku Ssam Bar (which fell 14 positions to 40th). U.K. restaurants included St. John (41st) and Hibiscus (43rd).

    Waterside Warehouse

    Noma — which stands for “Nordisk Mad,” or Nordic Food — is housed in a warehouse by the waterside in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn district. Redzepi, 33, travels the region in search of ingredients and inspiration for his seasonal menu. Noma entered the table at 33 in 2006.

    The lunch menu at Noma is 1,095 kroner ($210) for seven courses and there is a 12-course menu for 1,395 kroner. It’s another 1,045 kroner with matching wines. Dishes may include potatoes and milk skin, lovage and yogurt; beef cheek and pear, verbena, endive. When I last dined there, the only meat was reindeer tongue.

    The restaurant is usually fully booked months in advance. Reservations for August will open on May 2 at 10 a.m. and for September on June 1. If you want to try for a table, two things to remember are: Lunch is easier than dinner; tables of four or more are less difficult to get than tables for two.

    Bookings Surge

    Redzepi said in an interview with Bloomberg in December that the day after Noma topped the awards last year, more than 100,000 people tried to book online, enough to fill the restaurant for more than 14 years.

    The winners are picked by 837 chefs, food writers and restaurateurs from around the world. I’m a member of the U.K. panel and each of us votes confidentially, without meeting — or even necessarily knowing the identity of — the other voters. The U.K. and Ireland panel is headed by Jay Rayner. Members of the academy are required to have eaten at the restaurants that we nominate within the previous 18 months.

    Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana won the Chefs’ Choice Award.

    The Top 50 1 Noma, Denmark (1) 2 El Celler De Can Roca, Spain (4) 3 Mugaritz Spain (5) 4 Osteria Francescana Italy (6) 5 The Fat Duck, U.K. (3) 6 Alinea, U.S. (7) 7 D.O.M, Brazil (18) 8 Arzak, Spain (9) 9 Le Chateaubriand, France (11) 10 Per Se, U.S. (10) 11 Daniel, U.S. (8) 12 Les Creations De Narisawa, Japan (24) 13 L’Astrance, France (16) 14 L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon, France (29) 15 Hof Van Cleve, Belgium (17) 16 Pierre Gagnaire, France (13) 17 Oud Sluis, Netherlands (19) 18 Le Bernardin, U.S. (15) 19 L’Arpege, France (Re-Entry) 20 Nihonryori Ryugin, Japan (48) 21 Vendome, Germany (22) 22 Steirereck, Austria (21) 23 Schloss Schauenstein, Switzerland (30) 24 Eleven Madison Park, U.S. (50) 25 Aqua, Germany (34) 26 Quay, Australia (27) 27 Iggy’s, Singapore (28) 28 Combal Zero, Italy (35) 29 Martin Berasategui, Spain (33) 30 Bras, France (Re-Entry) 31 Biko, Mexico (46) 32 Le Calandre, Italy (20) 33 Ristorante Cracco, Italy (Re-Entry) 34 The Ledbury, U.K. (New Entry) 35 Chez Dominique, Finland (23) 36 Le Quartier Francais, South Africa (31) 37 Amber, China (New Entry) 38 Dal Pescatore Italy (36) 39 Il Canto, Italy (40) 40 Momofuku Ssam Bar, U.S. (26) 41 St John, U.K. (43) 42 Astrid Y Gaston, Peru (New Entry) 43 Hibiscus, U.K. (49) 44 La Maison Troisgros, France (44) 45 Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee, France (41) 46 De Librije, Netherlands (37) 47 Hotel De Ville, Switzerland (14) 48 Varvary, Russia (New Entry) 49 Pujol, Mexico (New entry) 50 Etxebarri, Spain (Re-Entry)

    (Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

    To contact the writer on the story: Richard Vines in London at or

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at


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