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Posted on April 18, 2011
The world’s number 1 restaurant: Noma in Copenhagen. Photograph: Casper Christoffersen/AFP/Getty Images 1. Noma
Last year’s position: 1
Noma is best known for its fanatical approach to foraging but there is much more to this ground-breaking restaurant than the mere picking of Mother Nature’s pocket. It’s the entire package, from its ingredient ingenuity to flawless execution, that makes it a beacon of excellence and which leads to an emotive, intense, liberating way of eating, unlike any other. Many have copied chef Rene Redzepi’s approach, most have failed. For the best in class, Noma really is the number one place to go.
2. El Celler de Can Roca
Last year’s position: 4
El Celler de Can Roca is possibly the least well-known restaurant to have ever held the much-vaunted number-two spot on the list, a quirk which, far from being a hindrance, has allowed the three brothers Roca to get on with what they do best. Their “emotional cuisine” with different ingredients and combinations can trigger childhood memories or take you back to a specific place in your past.
San Sebastián, Spain
Last year’s position: 5
Mugaritz has two dégustation menus that change daily according to what chef Andoni Luis Aduriz can get his hands on at the street markets and what’s growing in the restaurant’s herb garden. Whatever happens, you can expect to sample the team’s intricate dishes that seek to reconnect diners with nature. His self-dubbed “techno-emotional” approach sees the appliance of science and a rigorous understanding of ingredients jostle with produce-driven cuisine.
4. Osteria Francescana
Last year’s position: 6
Much of the food at Osteria Francescana takes its inspiration from the art world, but this is only half the story. The unrivalled culinary heritage of the Emilia-Romagna region is chef Massimo Bottura’s other great muse, and the kitchen offers a menu of traditional food alongside more left-field creations. The cooking is exciting and gratifying, the overall experience progressive and relaxed.
5. The Fat Duck
Last year’s position: 3
Heston Blumenthal’s world-famous, but still tiny restaurant in Bray, has blazed a trail for experimental cooking in this country, but one of its enduring features is also that it is brilliant fun. Sure, guests’ sensory perceptions are challenged, their notion of possibility expanded, but never in a po-faced way. Instead, gourmand pilgrims can be witnessed smiling and laughing their way through a foodie marathon.
Last year’s position: 7
Alinea represents one of the most radical re-imaginings of fine food by any chef in American history and has propelled Grant Achatz to chef superstardom. Everything about his restaurant is unique, from the deconstructed food, unfamiliar flavour combinations and theatre to the tableware, with dishes served in and on all manner of implements: test tubes, cylinders, multi-layered bowls that come apart. It’s boundary-shifting stuff.
São Paolo, Brazil
Last year’s position: 18
D.O.M. has become a priority destination for all globe-hopping gastronomes, not that chef Alex Atala is resting on his laurels. Instead he scours the Amazon to pepper his with indigenous ingredients, from the staple manioc tuber and its tupuci juice to Amazonian herbs and the huge white-fleshed pirarucu fish to ensure his restaurant is unlike any other on the list.
San Sebastián, Spain
Last year’s position: 9
If you like your food pretty, this is the place. Father-and-daughter team Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak Espina’s plates look fantastic: striking, colourful and imaginative, yet for the most part unfussy. The pair run the kitchen as equals and are a major presence in the dining room. Like the food, it pulls off the neat trick of balancing tradition and innovation, with warm, familiar service.
9. Le Chateaubriand
Last year’s position: 11
It’s hard not to be excited by Le Chateaubriand. It is effortlessly cool, understated yet accomplished, democratic, affordable and, perhaps most importantly, fun. Its lack of airs and graces – hard chairs and bare tables, the take-it-or-leave-it five-course fixed-price menu and the championing of natural wines – is not to everyone’s tastes, but Le Chateaubriand doesn’t really care.
? +33 (0)1 43 57 46 95
10. Per Se
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 10
Per Se, Thomas Keller’s “urban interpretation” of his French Laundry in California, has changed its menu every day of its nearly eight years – that’s something like 30,000 different dishes, some re-introduced from prior seasons but continuously refined. With three Michelin stars it has succeeded as much by consistency as by creativity and remains one of the US’s true destination restaurants.
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 8
Daniel Boulud’s desire to meld unexpected ingredients and create dishes you won’t see on any other menu make for one of Manhattan’s most exquisite eating-out experiences. Today his restaurant empire is blossoming, with openings across the world, but for a true taste of the Lyonnaise lion, to Manhattan you must go.
12. Les Créations de Narisawa
Last year’s position: 24
Much has been made of the fact that the first Japanese restaurant to make this list has a distinct French accent, but chef-owner Yoshihiro Narisawa is not just producing Gallic haute cuisine with a Pacific edge. Themes of soil, water, fire, charcoal and forest permeate the menu to reflect Narisawa’s bringing of nature to the plate, resulting in dishes complete with the smell, aspect or texture of the landscape from which they were drawn.
Last year’s position: 16
Pascal Barbot opened L’Astrance after making his name at Alain Passard’s L’Arpège. That was back in 2000, and since then he has built up a serious reputation and is now regarded as one of the most innovative and distinct chefs in France. There’s no menu as such – just tell him what you can’t or won’t eat and he’ll prepare a bespoke succession of wildly creative dishes.
? +33 (0)1 40 50 84 40
14. L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon
Last year’s position: 29
With its emphasis on conviviality, L’Atelier moved Joël Robuchon from fine dining into fun dining. Interaction between diners – seated at a sushi-bar – and chefs, who performed in an open-plan kitchen, was encouraged and kitchen theatre quickly became the rage. That the original remains so popular is largely the result of Eric Lecerf and Philippe Braun, two of Robuchon’s most trusted lieutenants, who man the Parisian fort while Robuchon trots the globe.
15. Hof van Cleve
Last year’s position: 17
Chef-patron Peter Goossens lives and breathes local produce, and a meal at Hof van Cleve shows both the considerable extent of his regional larder and his talent at exploiting it. Fish and shellfish feature prominently, suiting Goossens’ style of cuisine, in which he highlights freshness of flavour and reminds you of the source of your food. That said, he’s no one-region pony and has an increasing interest in Asian cuisine.
16. Pierre Gagnaire
Last year’s position: 13
Pierre Gagnaire’s eponymous restaurant in Paris is still one of the most vaunted places to eat in the French capital, demonstrating the resilience of one of the food world’s true greats. Gagnaire’s approach to cooking combines a touch of the poetic with a dash of simplicity and a soupçon of wistfulness for dishes that appear as mini art forms.
17. Oud Sluis
Last year’s position: 19
Oud Sluis has run for three generations and current patron, Sergio Herman, has remained true to its founding principles – capitalising on the Zeeland coast’s fresh fish and oysters. This is no ordinary seafood restaurant, however. Herman’s quest for flavour-matches of Italian and Japanese influence, such as langoustine with artichoke, Iberico ham and makrut lime leaves, has earned him a reputation as one of the country’s most inspiring chefs.
18. Le Bernardin
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 15
Fish is the star of the show at Le Bernardin but only when you eat there do you fully realise the high regard chef Eric Ripert holds for our underwater friends. The menu is a who’s who of the sea, with red snapper, monkfish, fluke, turbot, salmon, king fish, halibut, lobster, bass, skate and kampachi in forms including “almost raw”, “barely touched” and “lightly cooked”.
Alain Passard cut red meat from his menu back in 2001, but the Breton-born chef is no drum-banging vegetarian: the menus at this elegant restaurant, close to the Musée Rodin, still include top-notch game, poultry and seafood. However, L’Arpège remains veg-centric and is a haven for pescetarians, vegetarians and even – whisper it – vegans. It’s also hallowed ground for chefs and Passard’s light touch and flawless presentation has made him a true French master.
20. Nihonryori RyuGin
Last year’s position: 48
The menu at Nihonryori RyuGin is built around the seasons and chef Seiji Yamamoto takes great care to retain the integrity of traditional Japanese ingredients and cooking methods while pushing the boundaries of the cuisine. Yamamoto delights in avant-garde techniques – he’s not afraid to flex his Arnie-like culinary muscles at times – but his overall approach doesn’t overlook tradition. One dish features 30 kinds of Japanese spring vegetables and 10 types of shellfish.
Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
Last year’s position: 22
The minute you turn into the drive of the imposing Schloss Bensberg – the hotel in which Vendôme is housed – you know you’re in for a treat. Here, chef Joachim Wissler invites diners to accompany him on a small or grand “expedition”, where they can feast on simply prepared dishes that come thick and fast. It’s a surreal Alice in Wonderland-like jaunt through Germany’s forgotten culinary landscape: fun, but with an underlying seriousness.
Last year’s position: 21
Steirereck, housed in a beautiful Art Deco building in Vienna’s central city park, is a grand affair with a 35,000-strong wine list and stunning views over the river Wien. Yet the food has stayed true to its old-world heritage with chef Heinz Reitbauer using national and regional Austrian cooking to create small moments of surprise through the discovery of previously unknown ingredients or the resurrection of those long forgotten.
23. Schloss Schauenstein
Last year’s position: 30
With only 26 covers, Schauenstein is one of the smallest restaurants in the list and since being awarded three Michelin stars last November is even harder to get into than previous years. Its chef, Andreas Caminada, is a serious talent who eschews the whizz-bang style of cuisine. Instead, he prefers to tease out the extraordinary potential of simple ingredients to create masterpieces of craft, taste, colour and precision.
24. Eleven Madison Park
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 50
Eleven Madison Park is increasingly making waves within international circles and is the second-highest climber on this year’s list. The restaurant recently underwent considerable change with chef Daniel Humm and general manager Will Guidara reducing capacity from 114 covers to 80 and completely revamping the menu. There’s no more à la carte. Instead, a card printed with a grid of 16 ingredients hints at the dishes available.
Last year’s position: 34
Aqua’s location is corporate in the extreme – the Wolfsburg Ritz-Carlton overlooks Volkswagen’s Autostadt visitor attraction – but this is no soulless, carbon copy, could-be-anywhere, hotel fine-dining joint. Sven Elverfeld applies his considerable skills to peasant food, resulting in avant-garde re-workings of boiled lamb fillet with Frankfurt green sauce and beef with sour cream, gherkins and beetroot. In a place where you’d expect absolutely no reference to location, it’s here in spades.
Last year’s position: 27
Long before it was so deeply fashionable, chef Peter Gilmore was perfecting his “nature-based cuisine” at Quay with his dazzling array of dishes. The restaurant has retained the coveted “Three Hats” from the Australian Good Food Guide for a ninth consecutive year and Gilmore recently published his first book – Quay: food inspired by Nature – a visually sumptuous but deeply informative exposition of his work.
Last year’s position: 28
Iggy’s made the move from The Regent Singapore hotel to new premises at The Hilton late last year, doubling the size of the original restaurant, but owner Ignatius Chan has resisted the temptation to use this as a way of ramping up the number of covers for the sake of more Singaporean dollars. The kitchen has lost none of its flair and precision with flavours strong and uncompromising, with dishes that have a true international grounding.
28. Combal Zero
Last year’s position: 35
Anyone somewhat fatigued by samey high-end restaurants should definitely consider a trip to Combal Zero, where its hyper-creative, conceptual tasting menu will be equivalent to a round of electric shock therapy, stimulating mind and body alike. Chef-proprietor Davide Scabin is out to blow his customers’ minds and challenge perceptions with cutting-edge dishes served with incredible creativity – including Around the World in Five Soups and a helium balloon, supplied with Campari and soda-water capsules.
29. Martín Berasategui
San Sebastián, Spain
Last year’s position: 33
Martín Berasategui may have taken a bit of stick for being the only heavyweight Basque chef to take his brand of cooking worldwide (he has an outlet in Shanghai), but the food at his flagship continues to impress. The menu comprises 13 tiny, neatly presented dishes and foams, jellies and spherified balls abound, but Berasategui stays true to his roots: he uses very little non-regional produce and all his plates reference traditional dishes.
Working on the top of a hill in a remote slice of the French countryside, Michel Bras (pronounced Brahs) forages little-known herbs and vegetables and gently coaxes the best out of them, creating beautiful, organic plates such as his signature dish of Gargouillou containing more than 50 varieties of vegetable, herbs and flowers. Bras has never worked in anyone else’s kitchen (aside from his mother’s) and this is reflected in his simple, distinctive cooking.
Mexico City, Mexico
Last year’s position: 46
If you’re hankering after a taste of techno-emotional Spanish cuisine but can’t stomach the inevitable EUR300 bill, you might consider a trip to Mexico City’s Biko, where a tasting menu is a snip at just under EUR40. At Biko, Mexican food gets the modern Basque treatment: the gentle appliance of science to get the best out of local produce, combined with deft use of big, concentrated flavours in complicated, artfully presented dishes.
32. Le Calandre
Last year’s position: 20
Le Calandre represents contemporary Italian cooking’s middle ground. That’s not to say that Massimiliano Alajmo’s cooking is in any way average, but his cuisine is not extreme; it doesn’t seek to challenge or confuse but is rather grounded in what is in season and what tastes good. Last year the restaurant underwent a major refurbishment, doing away with tablecloths in the process, to better reflect the philosophy of the kitchen.
Last year’s position: Re-entry
Carlo Cracco is often credited – and occasionally derided – as being the ringleader of a small but important group of Italian chefs attempting to break away from the constraints of cooking “traditional” food. At his eponymous Milan restaurant he creates challenging cuisine that has won him considerable acclaim from the major Italian guides and two stars from Michelin. If you’re not a fan of sea urchins, snails and slugs, though, it may be one to swerve.
34. The Ledbury
Tucked away in the affluent but relatively off-piste Notting Hill neighbourhood of west London, Brett Graham’s small but perfectly realised restaurant has become one of the city’s ultimate dining destinations. The tone is set by impeccable service, with the largely Antipodean front-of-house staff successfully walking the tightrope between formal and relaxed. Graham’s equally outstanding food combines elements of French cuisine using traditional British ingredients, presented with charm and personality.
35. Chez Dominique
Last year’s position: 23
Chef-patron Hans Välimäki has been flying the flag for Finland’s cuisine since 1998 at Chez Dominique, regularly voted the country’s best restaurant for its innovative cooking based around Nordic and French flavours. The idea behind Välimäki’s cooking is to surprise by providing an experience unlike any other restaurant – an act he achieves through offering mystery menus where the diner places their trust at his mercy. It’s a gamble well worth taking.
36. Le Quartier Français
Franschhoek, South Africa
Last year’s position: 31
Part upmarket auberge, part award-winning restaurant complex, Le Quartier Français nestles in a corner of the Cape winelands. Dutch-born chef Margot Janse’s nine-course African-inspired Surprise Menu, paired with local wines, takes diners on a gourmet safari, highlighting southern African flavours, many of which are sourced from Le Quartier’s gardens. Others, such as Kalahari salt, hail from Namibia. Janse’s aim is to be 100% African in all her produce – she’s 80% there.
Hong Kong, China
Dutch-born Richard Ekkebus is at the helm of newcomer Amber, the signature restaurant of Hong Kong’s five-star Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and is perfectly placed to procure the best Japanese line-caught fish and other produce that passes through the former silk and spice crossroads. The restaurant has high standards of on-plate artistry and imaginatively explores French conventions and combinations of tastes and textures, amplified by a daily-changing wine list.
38. Dal Pescatore
Last year’s position: 36
This family restaurant notched up a Michelin first when it was awarded three stars in 1996: Nadia Santini became the first female chef in Italy to gain top marks. Even now, it’s easy to see what attracted the little red book to this out-of-the-way corner of Mantua – the setting is luxurious and while the cuisine is still rigorously authentic Italian, the kitchen remains ever-receptive to new ideas or ingredients.
39. Il Canto
Last year’s position: 40
Working out of a former Carthusian convent, Paolo Lopriore boldly offers decidedly non-traditional food in a region with one of the most fiercely protected culinary identities in Italy. He may use Tuscan classics such as ribollita and tonno e fagioli as a jumping-off point, but from there it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next. A few diners report ‘challenging’ flavours but the vast majority come away raving about the confidence of the chef’s direction.
40. Momofuku Ssäm Bar
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 26
Pork takes a starring role at David Chang’s informal and buzzing restaurant, either slow-cooked shoulder or braised and grilled belly served in steamed buns or wrapped in lettuce (Ssäm means wrapped). There are small plates, too, that reflect Chang’s eclectic approach: Short Rib Sandwich – Taleggio, Beet Slaw and Bacon or maybe Spicy Honeycomb Tripe with Ginger, Scallion, Celery and Pickled Tomatoes. Think of it as a Pan-Asian St John.
41. St John
Last year’s position: 43
Founders Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson have been busy becoming hoteliers this year but it’s business as usual at their stalwart British restaurant-cum-canteen. Here you can eat some of the best meat dishes in London, from whole suckling pig to roast mutton, in refreshingly unfussy surroundings. What’s lacking in pomp is more than made up for in technical ability. Its Welsh rarebit is easily one of the finest of its kind in the world.
42. Astrid Y Gastón
Gastón Acurio’s flagship restaurant in the Peruvian capital may be a newcomer to the list, but its chef-owner is already a well-established star of international gastronomy. At Astrid Y Gastón, Acurio uses myriad indigenous ingredients, led by Pacific seafood, and traditional cooking methods fused with the international influences for beautifully conceived dishes such as Warm Amazonian Ceviche, Suckling Goat with Loche Pumpkin and Lucuma Panacotta on Cocoa Alfajor.
Last year’s position: 49
Claude Bosi moved Hibiscus to London from Ludlow four years ago and his intense focus has paid increasing dividends with discerning diners. Bosi’s dishes tread the fine line between classic and modern. He is not interested in bizarre flavour combinations or hi-tech methods that change the intrinsic nature of ingredients, but instead focuses on originality and flair. The result is a restaurant that stands proud among its peers not only in the UK, but across the globe.
44. Maison Troisgros
Last year’s position: 44
Maison Troisgros has held three Michelin stars since 1968 and is currently under the control of Michel Troisgros, who picked up the reins in the late ’80s. Though very much grounded in classical French food, Michel Troisgros has embraced other influences, most notably Japanese and Italian, for an unfussy and distinctly modern cuisine, yet in a nod to its mighty gastronomic heritage, its Escalope of Salmon with Sorrel signature dish has remained on the menu unchanged since 1965.
45. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée
Last year’s position: 41
Alain Ducasse has gone back to basics at his eponymous flagship restaurant. There’s now much less going on in his dishes – just two or three main ingredients presented simply, yet artfully – and his key aim is to strike a balance between acidity, bitterness and sweetness. He’s using less salt and fat too, confident in his team’s ability to introduce great flavour by other means – although the presentation remains as flamboyant as the interior.
46. De Librije
Last year’s position: 37
Twenty-five years before it became fashionable, a passion for local, seasonal ingredients was the foundation upon which chef Jonnie Boer built his career and De Librije regularly features perch, eel and gurnard on its menus. The kitchen has a philosophy of simple purity, with Boer stating “it is not a laboratory” and the current menu features plenty of robust, earthy flavours, perfect to ward off winter’s lingering chill.
47. Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville
Last year’s position: 14
While many restaurants take a shock-and-awe approach of pairing unusual ingredients as an obstacle course for the palate, chef patron Philippe Rochat’s cooking is refreshingly straightforward, dare we say old-school. Attention to detail plays a major part of the dining experience and the kitchen sources the very best caviar, truffles and cheeses, whatever the price; bread is baked daily on-site and each dish contains only three main constituent flavours.
Chef Anatoly Komm is turning heads with an approach that is unashamedly “traditional Russian” on the one hand, but exciting and contemporary on the other. Fans of Komm include Ferran Adrià, who praises the chef for turning clichéd Russian cuisine on its head by combining traditional dishes and contemporary techniques with spectacular results. His 12-course “Gastronomic Show”, for example, features Borscht with Foie Gras and a Russian Salad using ingredients sourced in Russia.
Mexico City, Mexico
Head chef Enrique Olvera has switched from fancy dining to Mexican food “with soul” at Pujol with market-inspired dishes that nod to a strong cultural legacy. Cooking in clay pots has ousted the water bath but the food is no less modern – think coffee, corn and flying ants toasted and ground into a powder, stuffed into a dried pumpkin and wrapped in corn leaves, then heated to evoke a balmy Mexican street scene.
50. Asador Etxebarri
To see a true culinary workshop in action, head to Asador Etxebarri, where part chef, part blacksmith Victor Arguinzoniz deals almost exclusively in grilled food. If you can eat it, he’ll grill it. Caviar, cockles and even milk are cooked over locally felled oak and, unlike at many asadors, few of the ingredients arrive charred or blackened. If you’re tired of your dinner being mucked about with, this is the place to go.