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AlexForbes

World's 50 best restaurants list

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Nice to see L'Arnsbourg back on the list at #98 after a year (or two?) off. It's easily on of my favorite dining experiences in the world, and would surely rank much higher on the SP list (and likely quite a bit lower on mine) if it were near a major metropolis.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

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Ignoring the "world" aspect of this list, I've just been whinging on the Guardian about the UK restaurants.

Does anyone agree that these are the top 10 restaurants in the UK?

1. The Fat Duck

2. The Ledbury

3. St. John

4. Hibiscus

5. Hakkasan

6. Zuma

7. Nahm

8. Le Gavroche

9. Bar Boulud

10. Marcus Wareing

I think 1, 2, 4, 8 & 10 deserve to be up there, possibly St. John as well, but the rest? Can't say i've visited Hakkasan or Zuma due to the bad reviews i've seen, but quite how a judge could go to Bar Boulud and come away believing it to be a superior restaurant to somewhere like Sat Bains is beyond me. I don't think they are even the top 10 restaurants in london, and I can't believe many people would agree that all those restaurants deserve to be there ahead of any outside of London.

Which does make me wonder - if I don't agree with half of the UK restaurants in the list, does it make any sense to use this as any kind of a guide for restaurants to try elsewhere in the world?

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The Australian component of the list isn't too far removed from what our two top restaurant ages--the Sydney Morning Herald/Age Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller Top 100--say, altho' there are one or two restaurants that'd be on the list--and Tetsuya's would have fallen off altogether, maybe--that aren't on there at the moment.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Ignoring the "world" aspect of this list, I've just been whinging on the Guardian about the UK restaurants.

Does anyone agree that these are the top 10 restaurants in the UK?

1. The Fat Duck

2. The Ledbury

3. St. John

4. Hibiscus

5. Hakkasan

6. Zuma

7. Nahm

8. Le Gavroche

9. Bar Boulud

10. Marcus Wareing

I think 1, 2, 4, 8 & 10 deserve to be up there, possibly St. John as well, but the rest? Can't say i've visited Hakkasan or Zuma due to the bad reviews i've seen, but quite how a judge could go to Bar Boulud and come away believing it to be a superior restaurant to somewhere like Sat Bains is beyond me. I don't think they are even the top 10 restaurants in london, and I can't believe many people would agree that all those restaurants deserve to be there ahead of any outside of London.

Which does make me wonder - if I don't agree with half of the UK restaurants in the list, does it make any sense to use this as any kind of a guide for restaurants to try elsewhere in the world?

Its one list after another, all total pr driven, lets X factor everything, political bollocks, to put it bluntly.

The restaurant industry in this country, where the media are concerned, is on a par with the fashion industry. The pretention of it all is just awful. By definition, most of these lists are very contradictory. This particular list is just ridiculous. I agree Bar Bould, for christ sake! Its not even as good as its grown up sister version in New York, DB Modern, which I haven't ever seen being raved about.

Unfortunatly in this land we seem to love all these meaningless awards and best ever lists !

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I personally think this list is becoming very confused with itself. It's an odd mix of stalwarts (St.John), non-starred trendies (Zuma, Hakkasan) and the usual Michelin starred suspects.

The worrying thing for me is the list moves quite radically year to year and isn't so much the 'best' as the 'hottest",'most hyped' or 'exciting'. I am concerned wonderful places who have been there for years, rock-steady on consistency (which doesn't mean they aren't evolving) are being penalised simply because they aren't as new. I'd love to see a list with the restaurants separated into less than 10 years old, and over 10 years old; I suspect it might make for interesting reading.

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I am concerned wonderful places who have been there for years, rock-steady on consistency (which doesn't mean they aren't evolving) are being penalised simply because they aren't as new.

Didn't the organisers (or was it the judges?) openly admit that in the pre-list merry-go-round of press releases? I'm unlikely to find the source now, but my memory is that they freely stated the list is skewed towards "hot" and that any really good restaurant that doesn't do very much differently year to year will find itself falling down the list quickly.

The list is, of course, only loosely based on reality, but as mentioned above its power is amazing.

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The worrying thing for me is the list moves quite radically year to year

Agreed, Marcus. It really does make you wonder how much use it is - other than a talking point for internet discussion boards. For instance, we're visting South Africa later in the year and had been keen to try La Colombe as it stood at 12 in 2010, having whizzed up the list by some 30-odd places from the previous year. I see it now plummets to 82.


John Hartley

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I am concerned wonderful places who have been there for years, rock-steady on consistency (which doesn't mean they aren't evolving) are being penalised simply because they aren't as new.

Didn't the organisers (or was it the judges?) openly admit that in the pre-list merry-go-round of press releases? I'm unlikely to find the source now, but my memory is that they freely stated the list is skewed towards "hot" and that any really good restaurant that doesn't do very much differently year to year will find itself falling down the list quickly.

The list is, of course, only loosely based on reality, but as mentioned above its power is amazing.

I wasn't aware of that Simon so many thanks for the update. It does raise the point though; this list goes far and wide to members of the public who aren't as involved or passionate about food. If myself, and others here hadn't seen the PR, what will the overall public perception be? Given the radical rises and falls - Harter's La Colombe is a fine case in point - I suspect this list does more harm than good in many cases.

And I'm not sure those who are evolving, yet aging a bit venue wise, do get recognition. I kept harping on about how long it's been since The Fat Duck menu changed, yet to be fair to Heston, ironic it drops two places the year a whole raft of new, innovative dishes appear.

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I'm curious about the number of votes that separate restaurant #1 from restaurant #10 or even #100. I've often wondered if what accounts for restaurants shooting up or down a few spots is no more than a handful of votes one way or the other (obviously there's something more at play when a restaurant drops 70 places, but most of the shifts aren't that significant).


Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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FWIW, I found my

source and it's this paragraph that caught my eye:

One of the 50 Best voting panel judges said: "It's a snapshot in time. So it tends to favour the rising stars, the guys who have a buzz about them." He added that the more established names, such as Keller's The French Laundry in Napa Valley, California, "tend to slip down the list pretty quickly".

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It does seem odd though that the likes of St John can remain, but the French Laundry can not!

I've been wondering how the list comes together - in my mind, to come up with such a list, you would do a process roughly as follows:

1) Come up with the top restaurants in your region.

2) Get together with judges from the wider region (guessing Continent here) and repeat process

3) Finalise the list, perhaps with a vote from a cutdown list of restaurants worldwide

With the above process, I would have thought you would eliminate a lot of odd-placed restaurants in the first round, whilst giving restaurants out of capital cities that are lesser known a better chance.

I've no idea how the current process really works - if it is like above then fair enough, but if it's a case of each region drawing up their favourites worldwide and then counting the votes, then it would go some way to explain why many restaurants miss out.

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I really don't like lists that try to rank how good restaurants are. This comes from a few things. Firstly, food is always subjective, and one place which is incredible to one person may well be terrible to someone else. I know reviewers claim to be objective, but I think that is nigh on impossible when it's a scientifically proven fact that food evokes an emotional and physical response. The methodology of The World's 50 Best voting is reasonable, but I think it leaves a lot to be desired.

Next, when eating at a restaurant of the standard required to make a list such as The World's 50 Best you are talking about some very high calibre staff indeed. At any given time, any one of those restaurants can produce a meal that is truly the world's best. The difficulty of ranking them when this is the case shouldn't be forgotten. There are thousands of restaurants in the world capable of making that list, and only a handful of reviewers. If a reviewer misses going to a restaurant one night when they do something great, or go to a restaurant one night when they do something wrong, can change the situation entirely. Again, the voting system is reasonable but it leaves a lot to be desired.

Another point is the "What about?" factor. Given that food and restaurants are so subjective, I often look at lists such as these and go "What about <insert restaurant here>"? The cynic in me wonders about politics and hype in a consumer/capitalist society when it comes to choosing restaurants, but it probably has more to do with not enough reviewers doing their best to complete a massive task. They can only do so much with what they have available.

Finally, I wonder why some restaurants make the list when so many people that have eaten there think it is overrated or even terrible. I'm sure it's happened to you, but there have been times where I have been totally bewildered as to how a restaurant made it on to the list, or worse, into the position it did. I wish I knew the rationale behind each one.

Having said all of that, anything that generates excitement about the restaurant industry is a good thing. For me, the great restaurants are the ones who have been consistently great over a long period of time. That to me is what makes a World's Best Restaurant list. But again, my taste is entirely different to yours isn't it?


Edited by roosterchef21 (log)

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It does seem odd though that the likes of St John can remain, but the French Laundry can not!

I've been wondering how the list comes together - in my mind, to come up with such a list, you would do a process roughly as follows:

1) Come up with the top restaurants in your region.

2) Get together with judges from the wider region (guessing Continent here) and repeat process

3) Finalise the list, perhaps with a vote from a cutdown list of restaurants worldwide

With the above process, I would have thought you would eliminate a lot of odd-placed restaurants in the first round, whilst giving restaurants out of capital cities that are lesser known a better chance.

I've no idea how the current process really works - if it is like above then fair enough, but if it's a case of each region drawing up their favourites worldwide and then counting the votes, then it would go some way to explain why many restaurants miss out.

I'm sure that there was a fairly detailed write-up of the voting process by Jay Raymer a year or two back, but I can't find it just now. What I did find on a blog (here) was this summary of the process:

Voting is quite straightforward - each panellist selects the seven restaurants that they consider provided the best eating experience they had in the past 18 months with the only stipulation being that at least three of them are outside their own region.

What I'm not sure about is how the votes from the regional panels are then combined...

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Judy

I think then numbers are simply added up for each restaurant.

So, "success" depends firstly on how many of the judges (800?) have eaten at a particular place in the previous 18 months and, secondly, how many of them thought that place was one of the seven best experiences.


John Hartley

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http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/the-alist-crowd-20110423-1drqx.html

The A-list crowd

Larissa Dubecki

April 26, 2011

Chef Ben Shewry at Melbourne's Attica restaurant. Photo: Angela Wylie

The World's 50 Best Restaurants list has knocked Michelin off its lofty perch and is regarded as the arbiter of cool, writes Larissa Dubecki.

BEN Shewry knows patience. A chef enamoured of the slow turning of the seasons, he is more than usually accustomed to waiting. But he was unusually anxious last month as he looked out for the familiar sight of the postie.

And he was not alone. A handful of Australian chefs were waiting to see if they would, once again, receive a letter heralding inclusion on the list of S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants.

Mark Best, from Sydney's Marque, was going through the same purgatory. ''I was sweating,'' he admits.

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Intensifying their pain was the knowledge that Peter Gilmore of Sydney Harbour glamour puss Quay had already received his letter, word of which had quickly spread around chef circles.

''I was nervous, for sure,'' says the New Zealand-born Shewry. ''I didn't want to be the guy who gets on the list only to drop off after one year. When you're a chef and your passion is for cooking, these awards mean something. It's lying to say they don't.''

The World's 50 Best Restaurants list - somewhat confusingly it also comprises a B-list of the restaurants ranked 50-100 - was released last week, its 10th iteration. Its status means most readers will have seen in the news pages that Shewry's Attica, in Ripponlea, which debuted last year at No. 73, leapt ahead to No. 53, the only Melbourne restaurant on the list.

Sydney typically fared better on the international circuit: Gilmore's Quay was 26, the highest-placed restaurant in Australasia, while Marque came in at 70 (three down on last year), and Tetsuya's slid from last year's A-list status of 38 to 58.

But everyone's a winner on the World's Best.

At Attica it proved that lightning can indeed strike twice. The phones once again went into meltdown; the website was overloaded with 20,000 hits, and it received hundreds of emails. Last year, three people were hired to deal with the deluge of reservation inquiries, which has now been whittled to one full-timer whose sole task is to administer the bookings - an unusual undertaking for a restaurant that seats a mere 250 people a week.

''Last year when we found out we were going to be on the list, I spoke to staff and told them we might be a little bit more busy than usual. Nothing could have prepared us for what happened,'' laughs Shewry. ''We were better prepared this year.''

The restaurant world has witnessed a mighty coup in the past decade as the awards started by London-based Restaurant magazine and now sponsored by a mineral water company have infringed on the Michelin guides and their august 110-year history. The World's Best has well and truly muscled out the once-venerable Michelin, which has been reduced to the status of dusty old dowager by this shiny arriviste.

The territory was there for the taking. Once the final word in fine dining, Michelin has suffered a decade of relentlessly bad press from a media hostile to its perceived stuffiness and inflexibility, and its inability to reflect shifts in dining trends.

Now, the World's Best has become the final arbiter of the cutting edge: who's hot, who's not, who's on the slide down the rankings and who might be the next big star of the culinary world.

Part of it is thanks to the dark arts of PR. Restaurant magazine has cleverly turned it into a yearly social drawcard, with chefs and assorted food-world bigwigs flying into London for the announcement at the Guildhall. The glamour associated with Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal and Rene Redzepi has seen it dubbed the restaurant world's Oscars.

But it is also a relentless push at relevance that has brought the reversal of fortune. While Michelin has responded to global markets by slowly colonising new ground - it now publishes guides for the US and Asia, although it has no presence in Australia - and has introduced its inspectors to Twitter to occasionally comic effect (''not sure rosewater is my fav ice flavour tho but sour cherry rice - YUM!''), its anonymous judgments from on high are on the nose.

In contrast to Michelin's cloak-and-dagger self-importance, the World's 50 Best is out and proud. Judgment is devolved to a publicised global jury of 800-plus voters, divided into 27 regions, drawn from the ranks of chefs, restaurateurs and critics. Each juror can vote for seven restaurants, three of which must be outside their own region, all of which have been visited in the past 18 months.

But with no verification required, the allegation has been raised that jurors are voting for buzz-worthy places that they haven't visited. Can that many really have visited the ridiculously hard-to-get-into Noma or previous No.1 stalwart el Bulli?

Joanna Savill, co-editor of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and World's Best juror, jokes that it should be called the World's Hottest 50 Restaurants List.

''It's the foodists' list - the destination diners' list,'' she says. ''Most of the jurors, including yours truly, scope out every travel opportunity for where to go eat. And we tend to want to go for the hot [and the] new with a badge of recommendation from fellow food fanatics.''

Geographical bias, anyone? Latin America is not a typical dining destination. Nor is Australia, although cracking the list can certainly be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

''Once we made the list we had a huge number of panel members coming through the place,'' says Mark Best, who adds that it is important not to start believing the hype. ''Given the amount of restaurants around the world, it's still a fickle thing.''

No doubt the people behind the World's Best are acutely aware of the detractors. Restaurant editor William Drew was keen to point out that this year's restaurants ''span an even greater geographical spread than previous years and recognise the influence of fledgling culinary nations such as Peru and Russia''.

But even in this global new world order, Australia is destined to remain on the back foot. We are a long way from the action. And Sydney once again will have the advantage over Melbourne - destination diners are more likely to visit a city with a concentration of ranked restaurants.

Tourism New South Wales has joined the fray, promoting the likes of Marque, Tetsuya's and Quay with free trips to foreign food journalists.

When the merest whisker separates the bulk of the restaurants, this can be crucial.

Former Restaurant editor Nathan Garnett told The New York Times that while the top 10 receive votes in the hundreds, only one or two votes can separate the place-getters between 31 and 80.

According to Jay Rayner, Observer restaurant critic and the awards' British chairman: ''Perhaps it has become a victim of its own success. An appearance on the 50-best does wonders for a restaurant's business … As a result, both restaurateurs and tourist boards have gone out of their way to get panellists in, offering them endless free trips and free meals. I also proposed to the panel that votes for restaurants where the meals had been comped should be worth only half of those paid for. They decided to stick with the status quo. To me, that seems an opportunity missed.''

To believe the World's Best is the final word on the best 100 dining experiences around the world is as absurd as believing Black Swan was the best film made last year. But beyond the jingoistic league-table approach that dominates news reporting of the event, as though it were the culinary Olympics - which, to a certain extent, it is - it is nonetheless a valuable snapshot of where dining is at the moment.

''To say the French Laundry [Thomas Keller's Napa Valley establishment that took top spot in 2003 and '04 but slipped to No. 56 on this year's list] is behind us is bizarre,'' Shewry says. ''It's important to take it all with a grain of salt, and to remember that you can never predict what's going to happen. But I'm a New Zealander, so I'm pessimistic by nature.''

They are kidding right? As a chef, I'd rather Three Michelin Stars. As a reviewer, I know which one I would prefer to work for. Restaurant reviewers these days seem to want to be seen and be known. Everyone knows who they are, what they look like and where they are going to be. How can we take them seriously? At least with the Michelin inspectors you will never know who they are. Anyone else have any other thoughts on the whole thing?


Edited by roosterchef21 (log)

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