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AlexForbes

World's 50 best restaurants list

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Someone remind me they come up with the list? From looking at it, it wouldn't surprise me if the method is something along the lines of the Miele Guide in Asia.

Seriously--only one Japanese restaurant, and Iggy's beats out all the rest in Japan? There are plenty of excellent Japanese restaurants which welcome non-Japanese (or at least accept reservations from them). It's true that some of the highest-level places are exclusive, but most of them do not just exclude non-Japanese, but most Japanese as well. "Introductions" are part of the culture--without one, you're an outsider regardless of what nationality or ethnicity you are.

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I must say I don't really see any reason for the "incident" at the Fat Duck to have any bearing on these type of arbitrary lists. Wasn't the conclusion firmly on the side of it not being food related?

Surely what's being assessed is the quality of the restaurant not the risk factors of the business.

But back to the point - my money is on there being some new entrants from the Scandinavian MG boys...

While it shouldn't have any bearing, I still think that it probably will. So much of this list is about buzz. What makes the list somewhat plausible is that many, maybe even most of the restaurants that make it are deserving and arguably belong on the list. What makes the list something of a travesty is the poor execution when it comes to rating restaurants in Asia and japan. C'mon, Bukhara in Delhi is probably not even the best restaurant in Delhi let alone Asia. Granted it fell out of the top 50 last year.

I suspect that you are right about the Scandinavians. I think that you will see some shuffling in the US with Alinea rising and Charlie Trotter falling. It will be interesting to see if any of the bistronomic restaurants will make the list. Momfuku Ssam Bar probably stands the greatest chance because of all the hype it has received.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Bras and Gordon Ramsey fall as well. Bras because of many reports of slippage and GR because he seems to have taken a massive pr beating over the past year.

We'll see.

Smart call on Ramsay. I've just got back from the presentation and it was definitely a topic of conversation amongst journos. Supposedly the UK's top chef and he can't even get a sniff in the top 50. Even if it isn't a calculated snub it certainly compounds his recent woes.


Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

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The list hasn't yet been posted on S.Pellegrino's website and the other link provided by Alex doesn't work for me so I've copied from Wikipedia.

World's best restaurants 2009 winners list:

1 El Bulli, Roses, Spain (Best in Europe)

2 The Fat Duck, Bray-on-Thames, UK

3 Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark (Best in Scandinavia)

4 Mugaritz, San Sebastián, Spain (Chef's Choice)

5 El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain

6 per se, New York, USA (Best in the Americas)

7 Bras, Laguiole, France

8 Arzak, San Sebastián, Spain

9 Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France

10 Alinea, Chicago, USA

11 L'Astrance, Paris, France

12 The French Laundry, California, USA

13 Osteria Francescana, Italy

14 St John, London, UK

15 Le Bernardin, New York, USA

16 Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville, Switzerland

17 Tetsuya's, Sydney, Australia (Best in Australasia)

18 L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Paris, France

19 Jean-Georges, New York, USA

20 Les Creations de Narisawa, Japan

21 Chez Dominique, Helsinki, Finland

22 Ristorante Cracco, Italy

23 Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany

24 D.O.M., Brazil

25 Vendome, Germany

26 Hof van Cleve], Belgium

27 Masa, U.S.

28 Gambero Rosso, San Vincenzo, Italy

29 Oud Sluis, Sluis, Netherlands

30 Steirereck, Sluis, Austria

31 Momofuku Ssam Bar, U.S.

32 Oaxen Skaergaardskrog, Sweden

33 Martin Berastagui, Spain

34 Nobu, U.K.

35 Mirazur, France

36 Hakkasan, U.K.

37 Le Quartier Francais, South Africa

38 La Colombe, South Africa

39 Asador Etxebarri, Spain

40 Le Chateaubriand, France

41 Daniel, U.S.

42 Combal Zero, Italy

43 Le Louis XV, France

44 Tantris, Germany

45 Iggy's, Singapore

46 Quay, Australia

47 Les Ambassadeurs, Paris, France

48 Dal Pescatore, Canneto sull'Oglio (Mantova), Italy

49 Le Calandre, Padua, Italy

50 Mathias Dahlgren, Sweden

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A list to take with a pinch of salt, which is I think what Jay was saying; it is simply a bit of fun. But is it?

The problem with the list is that it reinforces a narrow stereotype. Take Australia as an example. Food journo #1 asks journo #2 where to eat when in Australia: Tetsuyas and Quay. Journo #2 has a short trip to Aus eats in these two plus a couple of others. The cycle goes on. 99% of visitors eat in these two restaurants plus a few other random restaurants, but too random to show up on voting. As Alex mentions this is the same reason for Steirereck's position on the list.

OK it is like the "WH Smiths Top 50 albums you must own" innocuous and a bit of fun (but you would never buy Val Doonicans Greatest Hits). So why am I against it? IMO it is too narrow, it limits experimentation. The Fat Duck is the best restaurant in the UK only because 99% of the panel went there (did it have to be within the voting period?), so 99% of visitors will still try to go there because it is #2 on the list. It is self reinforcing.

How could it be improved. Simple: publish a top 50 for each sub region, or at least a top 20. It would expand the publics perception of good food in a region, and could broaden peoples/journos experience i.e. instead of having two "must try" restaurants on the list for Australia there are 20, a broader sample size for the next survey, and maybe some more interesting, less predictable choices (of course that would depend on the panel members having actually eaten in 50 or 20 restaurants in each region).

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I think the list is a nice bit of fun. A chance to cheerlead your favourites, and berate the centralised kitchen tendencies of those who dare to empire build. It can never be truly scientific but at least its indicative of sentiment amongst those in the know.

I was pleased to see Noma moving up and glad that the panel took my advice and didn't punish Mr Blumenthal :biggrin: Seems that FA was very gracious in his acceptance speech too.

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If it were just a bit of fun (which of course it isn't), I guess it would fall into the genre of absurd humour.

(St John's the 14th best restaurant in the world? :blink: Yes, it does sound a bit like: 'Wile E. Coyote chases Road Runner after being smashed by a piano').

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PhilD,

I was about to post the following earlier and decided against it, but oh well, what the heck - it is a variation on your theme.

what some restaurants do is simply learn the name of a juror, invite him to the restaurant, wine and dine him (on the house, naturellement), then extracts the names of other jurors from that one, whether voluntarily or after said juror's tongue has been suitably loosened by multiple doses of his favourite poison.  The restaurant then invites the other jurors to the restaurant, and the cycle repeats itself.

I agree with your proposal 100%. Ths would mean that semi-legendary places like Tetsuya's could not merely rest on their laurels of being one out of only two Australian restaurants on that list. Friends of mine who were ardent admirers of Tetsuya's in years gone by say there has a noticeable decline in quality, and I will have to agree with them based on my personal experience. I don't think I am going too far when I say that it is seriously questionable, from a purely objective standpoint, whether Tetsuya's is even the best restaurant in Australia any more.

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A list to take with a pinch of salt, which is I think what Jay was saying; it is simply a bit of fun. But is it?

The problem with the list is that it reinforces a narrow stereotype. Take Australia as an example. Food journo #1 asks journo #2 where to eat when in Australia: Tetsuyas and Quay. Journo #2 has a short trip to Aus eats in these two plus a couple of others. The cycle goes on. 99% of visitors eat in these two restaurants plus a few other random restaurants, but too random to show up on voting. As Alex mentions this is the same reason for Steirereck's position on the list.

OK it is like the "WH Smiths Top 50 albums you must own" innocuous and a bit of fun (but you would never buy Val Doonicans Greatest Hits). So why am I against it? IMO it is too narrow, it limits experimentation. The Fat Duck is the best restaurant in the UK only because 99% of the panel went there (did it have to be within the voting period?), so 99% of visitors will still try to go there because it is #2 on the list. It is self reinforcing.

How could it be improved. Simple: publish a top 50 for each sub region, or at least a top 20. It would expand the publics perception of good food in a region, and could broaden peoples/journos experience i.e. instead of having two "must try" restaurants on the list for Australia there are 20, a broader sample size for the next survey, and maybe some more interesting, less predictable choices (of course that would depend on the panel members having actually eaten in 50 or 20 restaurants in each region).

Interesting thoughts Phil and I think it would certainly make interesting reading.

Also noticed Gagnaire has slipped down to 9th - not surprised after my visit there. I'm also always surprised St John is ranked so highly - I know that it influenced many chef's when it started up by introducing new ideas for offal, but is it really the 13th best restaurant in the world? It seems to get mixed reviews on here, and although I keep meaning to go there, there always seems to be somewhere that comes up instead where I would rather go first.

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Its almost as if they are trying to compensate for Michelin's French bias by discriminating against the French! A Top 50 best restaurants in the world list without Arpege, Ambroisie and Troisgros is, well, interesting. Still, at least Le Chateaubriand made it :blink:

California didn't do much better - Manresa and Urasawa must feel just a little hard done by.

And who keeps voting for Nobu and Hakkasan every year?

I'm sure the junket is fun but its still a rubbish list.


Edited by IanT (log)

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Is it flawed? Absolutely. All such exercises are. I haven't, as I type, seen this years list but I hope that our efforts to deal with some of the problems have addressed the exclusion of Japanese restaurants. Then again the exclusivity of high end Japanese restaurants, which often shades into nothing short of racist - if you're not Japanese you can't get in - is always going to make it tough to represent them fully. And frankly, i don't care how good they are. I find those entry requirements obnoxious. As far as I'm concerned they can fuck off. Really.

Not very much different from the attitude of many Chinese restaurants in London and elsewhere that have a 'real' menu that you can only access if you're chinese and/or speak the relevant language and then the standard menu..or what we might call the "childrens menu"...which is dumbed down for the rest of us who clearly would niether want, nor appreciate these proper dishes.

Today is the day for the UN anti-racism conference, right ?

Yes yesterday was the UN anti-racsim conference and i'm surprised that Mr Rayner would stoop to Ahmadinejad levels of crassness. As Rona (Prasantrin) said earlier, the exclusivity of those mythical high-end Japanese restaurants isn't just aimed at us foreigners it also includes 99.99% of Japanese too. So it is just plain wrong to call these places racist (without tongue firmly in cheek). This is exclusivity in another form and not just as a function of money.

Ignoring these super exclusive places. If the same level of PR and recognition were afforded to the "normal" high-end Japanese places (i.e. the Robuchons in Tokyo etc) as most of the Western restaurants in that list, then i would not doubt that there would be sizable Japanese representation. Even the ordinary sushi and noodle shops are better than Hakkasan and Nobu.

I think the same points were debated last year on this forum regarding Asian restaurants. Change the moniker of the awards from "World's" to "Western Experts Opinion of the", bit more of a mouthful but may be more apt. At the moment the list looks a little racist :wink:

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Actually - going back to St John, I really can't get my head around the top 4 restaurants in the UK being:

1. The Fat Duck

2. St John

3. Nobu

4. Hakkasan

Admittedly I haven't eaten at 2-4, but having just glanced at the food being served at le Champignon Sauvage.. well I'd like to know what these places are doing.

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St John is good, but I agree, punching above its weight on this list (it also strikes me as a very male choice of restaurant). Great to see Can Roca up there near the top.

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Think of the people judging though, chefs love to eat all offal and sheeps nads etc.

There's far less UK in the top 50 than before


Edited by Jamsie (log)

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Is it flawed? Absolutely. All such exercises are. I haven't, as I type, seen this years list but I hope that our efforts to deal with some of the problems have addressed the exclusion of Japanese restaurants. Then again the exclusivity of high end Japanese restaurants, which often shades into nothing short of racist - if you're not Japanese you can't get in - is always going to make it tough to represent them fully. And frankly, i don't care how good they are. I find those entry requirements obnoxious. As far as I'm concerned they can fuck off. Really.

Not very much different from the attitude of many Chinese restaurants in London and elsewhere that have a 'real' menu that you can only access if you're chinese and/or speak the relevant language and then the standard menu..or what we might call the "childrens menu"...which is dumbed down for the rest of us who clearly would niether want, nor appreciate these proper dishes.

Today is the day for the UN anti-racism conference, right ?

Yes yesterday was the UN anti-racsim conference and i'm surprised that Mr Rayner would stoop to Ahmadinejad levels of crassness. As Rona (Prasantrin) said earlier, the exclusivity of those mythical high-end Japanese restaurants isn't just aimed at us foreigners it also includes 99.99% of Japanese too. So it is just plain wrong to call these places racist (without tongue firmly in cheek). This is exclusivity in another form and not just as a function of money.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yeah...well, most food critics arent exactly humble...he probably tried the 'dont you know who I am' spiel once too often..

Myself, I am in nippon in May and have had no problem reserving a couple of places at top restaurants....mind you my friends are Japanese and reserved for me..

No doubt, an 'Im-the-big-man-look-at-me' type talking loudly in Japanese wouldnt have much luck getting into the Gavroche either.

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I used to be a judge for this list and for the past two years have declined.

The judging rules stipulate that the judge must have dined in the restaurants voted for in 2008. I really have a hard -- no make that impossible -- time believing that the judging panel really did dine in the restaurants they voted for in the past twelve months. Especially considering the shrinking dining-out budgets provided by media sources these days.

Now I read the list and smile, thinking that the hype wins out in the end. I mean L'Astrance as #11 really is a big fat joke. And where is Robuchon's Las Vegas restaurant? Don't tell me L'Astrance beats Robuchon in Vegas? I mean L'Astrance doesn't even beat Toqué! here in Montreal, a terrific restaurant that does not have a hope in hell of making that list.

Lists are silly, really. Nice read, but fiction in the end.

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I used to be a judge for this list and for the past two years have declined.

The judging rules stipulate that the judge must have dined in the restaurants voted for in 2008. I really have a hard -- no make that impossible -- time believing that the judging panel really did dine in the restaurants they voted for in the past twelve months. Especially considering the shrinking dining-out budgets provided by media sources these days.

Now I read the list and smile, thinking that the hype wins out in the end. I mean L'Astrance as #11 really is a big fat joke. And where is Robuchon's Las Vegas restaurant? Don't tell me L'Astrance beats Robuchon in Vegas? I mean L'Astrance doesn't even beat Toqué! here in Montreal, a terrific restaurant that does not have a hope in hell of making that list.

Lists are silly, really. Nice read, but fiction in the end.

In ALL of the restaurants, or just a certain proportion?

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St John is good, but I agree, punching above its weight on this list (it also strikes me as a very male choice of restaurant). Great to see Can Roca up there near the top.

It may be punching above its weight food wise compared to the other entries, but as a restaurant (which I believe is what it is being judged on) I certainly think it is in the top 50. Again as mentioned it is a chef's favourite and I believe chefs know a thing or two about a good restaurant experience :smile:

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I used to be a judge for this list and for the past two years have declined.

The judging rules stipulate that the judge must have dined in the restaurants voted for in 2008. I really have a hard -- no make that impossible -- time believing that the judging panel really did dine in the restaurants they voted for in the past twelve months. Especially considering the shrinking dining-out budgets provided by media sources these days.

Now I read the list and smile, thinking that the hype wins out in the end. I mean L'Astrance as #11 really is a big fat joke. And where is Robuchon's Las Vegas restaurant? Don't tell me L'Astrance beats Robuchon in Vegas? I mean L'Astrance doesn't even beat Toqué! here in Montreal, a terrific restaurant that does not have a hope in hell of making that list.

Lists are silly, really. Nice read, but fiction in the end.

In ALL of the restaurants, or just a certain proportion?

ALL.

And that's why I don't buy this list and that's why I declined a spot as a judge.

How many of the judges ate at El Bulli AGAIN this year? Don't know, but let's see the receipts. Also concerning regional representation, there is a limit to how many you can vote for in your own backyard. I remember it was something like two. So the way I see it, the judges are voting for the two best restaurants they dined at in their city, plus maybe two more they dined at while traveling, and the rest just go by either past experiences or an educated guess following hype.

Anyway that's my take on it. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

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Hi Lesley,

the rule says you must have eaten at the restaurants you vote for in the last 18 months, not 12.

and this year they made us say when, exactly, we ate at each restaurant (although I guess nothing would stop someone from telling a little white lie)

But no, of course we are not expected to eat at dozens of restaurants around the globe. We are only asked to vote for 5 which are, in our view, some of the world's best - where we've eaten recently.

So my 5, OBVIOUSLY, are a reflection of where I've been lately. In 08 I was in NY, Vienna, Barcelona, Cotswolds (UK) and Brazil. So that definitely narrows my choices.

And the same goes for all other judges.

That's why I said I knew that Steirereck making the list was a direct consequence of the R&C meeting in Vienna last November. In attendance were many of the world's greatest chefs, many of whom are judges. We all ate wonderfully at Steirereck, hence....

Likewise, restaurants in cities that are a favourite of foodies when they travel - NY, London, Paris - will always have an advantage.

My point is, a restaurant off the beaten path, no matter how excellent, will always have a slim chance. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise? If not enough judges know it or have been to it, then being excellent is simply not enough to get a restaurant on the list. Fair? Of course not, but... who says Best Of lists ever tried to be fair?

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May I ask how many judges participate, and where they are from (or where they reside)?

Asia is sorely underrepresented, and I'm inclined to think it's because most of the judges aren't from Asia or even of Asian ethnicities (but I won't even make accusations of racism, which others seem to do so easily).

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Hi Lesley,

the rule says you must have eaten at the restaurants you vote for in the last 18 months, not 12.

and this year they made us say when, exactly, we ate at each restaurant (although I guess nothing would stop someone from telling a little white lie)

But no, of course we are not expected to eat at dozens of restaurants around the globe. We are only asked to vote for 5 which are, in our view, some of the world's best - where we've eaten recently.

So my 5, OBVIOUSLY, are a reflection of where I've been lately. In 08 I was in NY, Vienna, Barcelona, Cotswolds (UK) and Brazil. So that definitely narrows my choices.

And the same goes for all other judges.

That's why I said I knew that Steirereck making the list was a direct consequence of the R&C meeting in Vienna last November. In attendance were many of the world's greatest chefs, many of whom are judges. We all ate wonderfully at Steirereck, hence....

Likewise, restaurants in cities that are a favourite of foodies when they travel - NY, London, Paris - will always have an advantage.

My point is, a restaurant off the beaten path, no matter how excellent, will always have a slim chance. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise? If not enough judges know it or have been to it, then being excellent is simply not enough to get a restaurant on the list. Fair? Of course not, but... who says Best Of lists ever tried to be fair?

At the same London is not of the beaten track, but only has three entries. St John, The Fat Duck and Ramsey @RHR I presume are probably the most famous Uk restaurants globally, so obviously will be a place people outside of the UK will want to try. Which may explain why the Fat Duck and St John are on, that is, they are still great restaurants, whereas Ramsay's place which may have been visited by many, is really not that great.

I still cannot work out the rationale behind Hakkasan though, not just as a great restaurant, but as a popular destination???

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Hi Lesley,

the rule says you must have eaten at the restaurants you vote for in the last 18 months, not 12.

and this year they made us say when, exactly, we ate at each restaurant (although I guess nothing would stop someone from telling a little white lie)

But no, of course we are not expected to eat at dozens of restaurants around the globe. We are only asked to vote for 5 which are, in our view, some of the world's best - where we've eaten recently.

So my 5, OBVIOUSLY, are a reflection of where I've been lately. In 08 I was in NY, Vienna, Barcelona, Cotswolds (UK) and Brazil. So that definitely narrows my choices.

And the same goes for all other judges.

That's why I said I knew that Steirereck making the list was a direct consequence of the R&C meeting in Vienna last November. In attendance were many of the world's greatest chefs, many of whom are judges. We all ate wonderfully at Steirereck, hence....

Likewise, restaurants in cities that are a favourite of foodies when they travel - NY, London, Paris - will always have an advantage.

My point is, a restaurant off the beaten path, no matter how excellent, will always have a slim chance. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise? If not enough judges know it or have been to it, then being excellent is simply not enough to get a restaurant on the list. Fair? Of course not, but... who says Best Of lists ever tried to be fair?

OK, 18 months then but still, I can't imagine people didn't vote based on past experiences.

And maybe it's just me, but after a decade in the business of reviewing restaurants, I'm so tired of seeing the same old same old praised over and again. Isn't it time we start applauding new chefs? I mean Adrià's mantle is pretty full by now and a lot of talented cooks out there remain anonymous year in, year out. Sad, and stupid really to keep praising the same gang, over, and over and over...

How about for next year's list, the 50 best restaurants you've probably never heard of. Now that would would be interesting! It's a complete bore to keep questioning whether The French Laundry is better than The Fat Duck and so on.

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Im struggling to understand why Ramsay hasn't even made the top 100. I realise he is taking a media hammering at the moment and I too have had alot to say about him of late etc.

But is this no more than political posturing? What creditabilty does this give to the list? How can a 3 star restaurant, placed 13 in the list last year be completely dropped? Very harsh to say the least, in view of St John being placed 14th, come on, and thats from somebody who doesn't like the celeb chef movement.

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The problem with the list is that it reinforces a narrow stereotype. Take Australia as an example. Food journo #1 asks journo #2 where to eat when in Australia: Tetsuyas and Quay. Journo #2 has a short trip to Aus eats in these two plus a couple of others. The cycle goes on. 99% of visitors eat in these two restaurants plus a few other random restaurants, but too random to show up on voting. As Alex mentions this is the same reason for Steirereck's position on the list.

Totally agree with PhilD’s “reinforcing” point. So the list now turns into the “World’s 50 Most Famous Restaurants” rather than “World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. I will be in Australia this September and guess which two restaurants I am going to book now?! :wink:

I have to admit that I have been following this list too closely in the past few years and have now visited most of the restaurants on that list. I don't disagree that some of the top 10 are the best restaurants, but it also contains disappointing jokes like Hakkasan being the best Chinese restaurant (and being a Chinese myself) or Nobu being the best Japanese restaurant in the world. Well, at least my favourites (Bras, Etxebarri and Oaxen) are still on that list.

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