The World’s 50 Best Restaurants: The winners and losers

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants were announced last night to great fanfare in London.  I received an email from the organisers telling me I could follow the awards on Facebook and Twitter which would allow me to “feel the emotion as if I was there”.  Not quite… no champagne for a start.

Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in the UK, No 5 last year and No 13 this year
Noma took out the top restaurant again and I continue to regret not eating there when I visited Copenhagen two years ago.  There was some interesting movement from the UK restaurants with Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner debuting at No 9 on the list, heading straight past Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck which fell to number 13.  Having eaten at both restaurants I think this is a rather strange result.  Dinner is a brilliant restaurant but does not compare to the once in a lifetime experience of a meal at The Fat Duck.

It will certainly make for some column inches in the papers, which may be part of the point with the awards getting bigger and bigger in recent years.   It seems as if the World’s 50 Best Resturants has overtaken Michelin stars in terms of the amount of publicity generated.  Unfortunately the shortcomings of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list seem even more pronounced than the Michelin review system.

Voting in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants is now carried out by  a specially selected academy of 800 chefs, restaurateurs, food writers  based in 28 separate regions around the world.  To nominate a restaurant the academy member must have eaten at it in the previous 18 months.

How the judges can possibly compare 50 restaurants at all corners of the globe is difficult to see.  It is highly unlikely even one judge has visited all 50 of the restaurants in one year, let alone the restaurants on the shortlist.  It also makes it hard to understand how the tiny Swedish restaurant Faviken managed to debut at 34 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.  As Simon Thomsen said on Twitter “No doubt deserved, but at 12 seats for 800 voters, think it’s time to see receipts.”
Le Chateaubriand in France, No 9 last year, 
In an article on last year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Terry Durack was also critical of the process.

“It’s still not a perfect system – why are most of the restaurants in Asia ‘French/European’ restaurants and not Asian ones? Where is the recognition for those great places in Saigon, Beijing, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kyoto?  –  but it’s the only one we have.”

There have already been rumbles by Jay Rayner about the “poor British showing” in the awards with only three restaurants in the top 50, but what about the poor Australian showing (1 restaurant – congratulations to Quay), poor China (1 restaurant) or poor India (0 restaurants)?   Entire continents (Africa) have been ignored by the mainly English speaking academy.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is trying to address this geographic bias by launching a 50 Best Restaurants in Asia list which will run next year, but it is unclear whether this will include Australia and it still does not solve the problem for other areas of the world.  
The Fat Duck, UK, No 5 last year and No 13 this year 
I’ve reproduced this year’s list below, with links where I have reviewed a restaurant on here.  What do you think? 
1)  Noma, Denmark

2) El Celler de Can Roca, Spain

3) Mugartiz, Spain

4) D.O.M, Brazil

5) Osteria Francescana, Italy

6) Per Se, USA

7) Alinea, USA

8) Arzak, Spain

9) Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, UK

10) Eleven Madison Park, USA

11) Steirereck, Austria

12) L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon, France

13) The Fat Duck, UK

14) The Ledbury, UK

15) Le Chateaubriand, France

16) L’Arpège, France

17) Pierre Gagnaire, France

18) L’Astrance, France

19) Le Bernardin, USA

20) Frantzen/Lindeberg, Sweden

21) Oud Sluis, The Netherlands

22) Aqua, Germany

23) Vendome, Germany

24) Mirazur, France

25) Daniel, USA

26) Iggy’s, Singapore

27) Les Creation De Narisawa, Japan

28) Nihonryori Ryugin, Japan

29) Quay, Australia

30) Schloss Schauenstein, Switzerland

31) Asador Etxebarri, Spain

32) Le Calandre, Italy

33) De Librije, The Netherlands

34) Fäviken Magasinet, Sweden

35) Astrid y Gaston, Peru

36) Pujol, Mexico

37) Momofuku Ssam Bar, USA

38) Biko, Mexico

39) Waku Ghin, Singapore

40) Quique Dacosta, Spain

41) Mathias Dahlgren, Sweden

42) Hof Van Cleve, Belgium

43) The French Laundry, USA

44) Amber, China

45) Vila Joya, Portugal

46) Il Canto, Italy

47) Bras, France

48) Manresa, USA

49) Geranium, Denmark

50) Nahm, Thailand


  1. World’s 50 best is a popularity contest. It’s a completely different system from Michelin, so you need to use it for different purposes.

    Obviously Michelin has their own slant, but you know that going in. If a Japanese company put out a review of French restaurants, how seriously do you think it would be taken?

    If you’re looking for somewhere to splurge for a special occasion, Michelin is a much better bet. Generally with Michelin, if a restaurant is unchanged in standard from year to year, so is its rating. Some of the restaurants have had 3 michelin stars doing the same thing for 30 years (The Waterside Inn for example – which was fantastic). I doubt you’ll ever see them in the Top 50.

    If you’re looking for somewhere new and/or unusual, the Top 50 is a better bet. If you’ve been to all the great restaurants in your town and want to find out what’s different, check the Top 50. If you want a name that will impress your friends, check the Top 50.

    My opinion is that if you want to brag about the restaurant on Facebook, go Top 50. If you want a good meal (and possibly a better chance of getting a booking), go Michelin.

  2. Great article Cara. I dined at Le chateaubriand on your reccomendation and loved it. I agree re previous comment and this being a popularity contest. I dined at an amazing restaurant called l’ami jean in Paris which almost deliberately goes against the top 50 grain and Michelin requirements (no crisp white tablecloths there) yet still remains one of my most amazing dining experiences – I can still taste the sweetbreads. It will never make one of these lists but is world class. Many young french (and other countries) chefs seem to be shunning the established evaluation criteria for a ‘great’ restauranta and I love this approach. Just need to make sure the twitterverse keeps me posted on where to find them!

  3. thanks for the article.

  4. I had a good old whinge about World’s Best 50 last year and (unsurprisingly) little has changed this year. The geographical spread and style of cuisines remain very limited. If the Japanese could actually give a toss about this award then they would be angry that the highest ranked restaurant in their country was at No.27. Laughable.

  5. Great post. I’ve got mixed feelings about the results on this year’s list- and completely agree about Dinner vs Fat Duck. But… it does provide a new incentive to get to South America….

  6. OMG I haven’t even eaten at 1, the horror!

  7. Great article! I enjoy top restaurant lists (as I enjoy every kind of lists) but I wouldn’t say that I believe in it and I think one has to take it with a pinch of salt/not serious. I had very good meal at Mugaritz, but 3rd best restaurant? I probably had better food at e.g.roganic. and – does “best” automatically mean many courses and very expensive? (not for me, I can tell you that!)

  8. Very thoughtful review and I do hope someone is listening too. Especially with the lack of Asian and Australian contributors present. The Marque’s and Tetsuya’s are at least 5-10 years outdated, which means I do agree too that it’s time for someone to show their receipts. The Miele Guide voting system has been evolving and becoming more fairer to fill in this missing gap lately, but then again not many people care about them.

    Best restaurant in France = L’Atelier Robuchon.

  9. I also blogged this subject yesterday.
    The more & more you look at this subject the bigger problem appears.
    The real lack of transparency & the fact that William Drew seems to think that it’s OK for people not to have actually eaten in the restaurants they may vote for.

    I think the title of my post sums it up perfectly: Worlds 50 Best, The culinary version of Eurovision.

  10. Niall – Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Interesting that you say a Michelin star gives you a better guarantee of a better meal. It’s certainly true that Michelin is more highly regarded by chefs (although apparently getting on World’s 50 Best is a great guarantee of business).

    Poka – Now you have made me desperate to go to L’Ami Jean – sounds like just the sort of restaurant that I love. I agree Twitter and blogs are a great source for finding restaurant recommendations as well.

    Love 2 Dine – Thanks

    Mr Noodles – Yes Japan and Asia in general is sorely under-represented. Will have to go back and find your post from last year.

    Tori – Well I’ve been to Brazil and still missed the restaurant listed there – I think a return trip is called for!

    Andi – Oh no – immediate rectification required!

    Ute – I love a list as well I must admit, who doesn’t? I agree as well, best is certainly not most expensive.

    HK Epicurus – Shamefully I have not even heard of the Miele Guide – I think they need to work on their publicity!

    Chef Hermes – I love the title. Interesting point you made in your post as well about Dinner being the post awards venue last year, then featuring heavily in the voting this year.

  11. […] help but want to know which restaurants had made the cut and which hadn’t.  Of course as I’ve said before, this list, of all lists, is more ridiculous than most. […]

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