For René Redzepi, champion of Nordic cuisine and forager par excellence, this year’s list of the 50 best restaurants makes for very pleasing reading indeed: Noma, in Copenhagen, has been crowned the world’s best place to eat for the third year in a row.
For his counterparts in Britain, however, the results – unveiled on Monday night at London’s Guildhall – may prove more indigestible. Only three UK restaurants have made it into the top 50, the joint-lowest number in the list’s 10-year history. And, for the first time, not one of them is in the top five.
William Drew, editor of the magazine Restaurant, which organises the list, said the results did not indicate a slipping of standards in the UK food scene, but a stiffening of the competition worldwide.
“I don’t think it’s a reflection of the food scene in Britain,” he said. “It’s a reflection of the incredible diversity of strengths of the food scene globally.”
Nevertheless the UK contingent remains distinctly small compared to two other European countries, with six French and five Spanish restaurants featuring on the list.
And while Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner is this year’s highest new entry, going straight in at No 9 after its opening last February, the Michelin-starred chef’s other flagship restaurant, The Fat Duck, has slipped back from fifth place to 13th.
The only other British restaurant appearing on the list comes via an Australian chef – Brett Graham’s The Ledbury, in London’s Notting Hill, which has climbed from 34th place to 14th.
The findings are not, however, enough to have the critics weeping into their well-pressed napkins. The food writer Charles Campion rejected any notion that British gastronomy was losing its grip.
He said the list, whose detractors complain it is PR-driven and somewhat meaningless, did a terrific job of generating interest in restaurants, but was in no way a scientific sample.
“It’s a list, and it’s only as meaningful as you want to make it. It’s contributed to the success of [the now closed Catalan restaurant] El Bulli, the Fat Duck, René Redzepi at Noma, because they have taken the opportunity that was granted them, and they are all excellent restaurants. Are they the best in the world? Who has any idea?”
With Noma in first place, followed by Spanish heavyweights El Cellar de Can Roca and Mugaritz in second and third, the head of this year’s list is identical to last year’s. The Danish restaurant, which first topped the list in 2010, is now close to matching El Bulli’s record four years at No 1.
And, just as Ferran Adrià witnessed a worldwide rush for bookings following the crowning, so too has Redzepi. On Saturday, the chef posted this message on his Twitter feed: “1204 people on the waiting list for this evening. Same day in 2008 (Monday 28th of april) 14 guests in all day.”
Top 10 of the world’s 50 best restaurants
1. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
3. Mugaritz, San Sebastián, Spain
4. D.O.M., São Paolo, Brazil
5. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
6. Per Se, New York, US
7. Alinea, Chicago, US
8. Arzak, San Sebastián, Spain
9. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London, UK
10. Eleven Madison Park, New York, US