One of the most eagerly anticipated awards ceremonies on the culinary circuit, last night saw the unveiling of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012. Representing 27 world regions, 800 of the world’s most trusted palates came together to cast their votes for the restaurants that they believe perfectly encapsulate the current global dining scene, and assure the most memorable experiences for diners across the globe. Rather than being an inaccessible chart of eye-wateringly expensive, award-showered entries (though a few undoubtedly are), the World’s 50 Best has no set criteria, and a quaint countryside retreat is just as likely to feature as a top-class city dining establishment.
Now in its tenth year, the much-anticipated event took place in London’s landmark Guildhall building to an eagerly-awaiting audience. With the world’s gourmets on the edge of their seats, here’s how things unfolded:
World’s Best Restaurants: Top 10
Last year’s position: 1
Last night saw Noma net the elusive World’s Best hat-trick, and was named No. 1 for a third consecutive year. A resounding favourite for the award for its ground-breaking flavour combinations and painstaking foraging, many see it as a travesty that 2-Michelin-starred Noma is yet to add a third star to its collection. Noma offers a dining experience that’s every inch Scandinavian: from its littering of bearskin rugs and dishes like Limfjords oysters with onion air, to the revered Danish head chef, Rene Redzepi.
Last year’s position: 2
By all accounts an unknown when awarded last year’s runner-up prize, El Celler de Can Roca shows it’s here to stay by maintaining a superb second place ranking in 2012. Brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi make up one of the world’s finest trio of chefs, with each doggedly pursuing their concept of ‘emotional cuisine’: flavours, tastes and textures which evoke distinct moods and memories. Since opening its doors in 1986, perfected dishes have evolved from the first dish Joan ever created: sole with rosemary and garlic vinaigrette.
San Sebastián, Spain
Last year’s position: 3
Nestled in what looks like a secluded hunting lodge in the lush Spanish countryside, Mugaritz blends a rustic, ‘at-one-with-nature’ setting and world-class culinary flair. Gaining a bronze medal for its focus on crafting the most authentic cuisine possible, head chef Andoni Luis Aduriz uses a knowing eye to source the finest ingredients from local street markets, as well as the restaurant’s own garden. Guests are offered a bespoke degustation menu, which changes daily according to the finest available produce.
São Paolo, Brazil
Last year’s position: 7
Flying the gastronomic flag for South America, Brazilian D.O.M climbs 3 places from last year’s No. 7. Its seventh year on the list, chef Alex Atala offers an impeccable mix of Amazonian rainforest-style rusticism and haute cuisine accents. Rich and rare ingredients native to Brazil are given a swirl of Atala’s creativity, which also saw D.O.M named the ‘Best Restaurant in South America’ in this year’s list.
5. Osteria Francescana
Last year’s position: 4
Despite slipping one place since 2011, Osteria Francescana stands steadfast in the world’s restaurant elite. Their trophy cabinet is fit to burst: with 3 Michelin stars, the Chef’s Choice award, and an admirable fourth place in 2011’s rankings. At the restaurant’s exclusive 11 tables, guests are met with extraordinary plated works of art. The renowned tasting menus offer a journey through taste, texture and temperature, with dishes like 5 ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, or broken fruit pie.
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 10
A New York gem from last night’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Thomas Keller, Per Se climbs four places on last year’s tenth, and was also named Best Restaurant in North America 2012. Views over Central Park make this one of the most sought-after dining spots in the world, and a twice-daily changing menu confirms Keller’s astounding ability when it comes to transforming simple ingredients into culinary mastery.
Last year’s position: 6
Celebrating its fourth year in the top 10, Alinea’s Grant Achatz offers futuristic fine dining. Buzz word menu descriptions like “black truffle, explosion, romaine, parmesan” offer a simplified glimpse into the complexity and craftsmanship of each dish. The slick, understated interior is a perfectly muted backdrop for the dishes, which are served suspended on wires, in artful towers, or even placed directly onto the table.
San Sebastián, Spain
Last year’s position: 8
Arzak’s philosophy is simple: classic Spanish cuisine taken to the next level. Father and daughter duo Juan Mari and Elena have maintained 2011’s eighth place, and also saw Elena named Veuve Clicquot’s Best Female Chef 2012. An interactive experience sees some dishes served on computer screens, with other-worldly creations including the ‘moon stone’, or deep blue duck with ginger and liquorice.
Last year’s position: New Entry
A surprise new entry at No.9 came courtesy of culinary sorcerer Heston Blumenthal. With his 3-Michelin-starred baby, The Fat Duck, demoted from fifth to thirteenth, it was his new Knightsbridge venture ‘Dinner’ that clinched a top 10 place. In keeping with Blumenthal’s signature innovation, the menu is a ground-breaking reworking of historical British recipes. One-Michelin-starred offerings include hay-smoked mackerel, or broth of lamb with veal sweetbreads.
New York, USA
Last year’s position: 24
As well as the feat of leaping from holding 1 to 3 Michelin stars in 2012, a this year saw Eleven Madison Park climb a dizzying 14 places in the World’s 50 Best list. In the sultry New York-style dining room, bright and bountiful tasting menus include journeys through flavours of langoustine, lamb and lemon.
World’s Best Restaurants: 11-50
11. Steirereck – Vienna, Austria (Up 11)
12. L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon – Paris, France (Up 2)
13. The Fat Duck – Bray, England (Down 8)
14. The Ledbury – London, England (Up 20)
15. La Chateaubriand – Paris, France (Down 6)
16. L’Arpège – Paris, France (Up 3)
17. Pierre Gagnaire – Paris, France (Down 1)
18. L’Astrance – Paris, France (Down 5)
19. Le Bernardin – New York, USA (Down 1)
20. Frantzen/Lindeberg – Stockholm, Sweden (New Entry)
21. Oud Sluis – Sluis, Netherlands (Down 4)
22. Aqua – Wolfsburg, Germany (Up 3)
23. Vendôme – Bergisch Gladbach, Germany (Down 2)
24. Mirazur – Menton, France (Re-entry)
25. Daniel – New York, USA (Down 14)
26. Iggy’s – Singapore (Up 1)
27. Les Créations de Narisawa – Tokyo, Japan (Down 15)
28. Nihonryori RyuGin – Tokyo, Japan (Down 8)
29. Quay – Sydney, Australia (Down 3)
30. Schloss Schauenstein – Fürstenau, Switzerland (Down 7)
31. Asador Etxebarri – Atxondo, Spain (Up 19)
32. Le Calandre – Padua, Italy (No Change)
33. De Librije – Zwolle, Netherlands (Up 13)
34. Fäviken – Jarpen, Sweden (New Entry)
35. Astrid Y Gastón – Lima, Peru (Up 7)
36. Pujol – Mexico City, Mexico (Up 13)
37. Momofuku Ssäm Bar – New York, USA (Up 3)
38. Biko – Mexico City, Mexico (Down 7)
39. Waku Ghin – Singapore (New Entry)
40. Quique Dacosta – Denia, Spain (New Entry)
41. Mathias Dahlgren – Stockholm, Sweden (Re-entry)
42. Hof van Cleve – Kruishoutem, Belgium (Down 27)
43. The French Laundry – Yountville, USA (Re-entry)
44. Amber – Hong Kong, China (Down 7)
45. Vila Joya – Albufeira, Portugal (New Entry)
46. Il Canto – Siena, Italy (Down 7)
47. Bras – Laguiole, France (Down 17)
48. Manresa – Los Gatos, USA (Re-entry)
49. Geranium – Copenhagen, Denmark (New Entry)
50. Nahm – Bangkok, Thailand (New Entry)
Continental Restaurant Awards:
Noma – The World’s Best Restaurant & Best Restaurant in Europe
D.O.M – The Best Restaurant in South America
Per Se – The Best Restaurant in North America
Iggy’s – The Best Restaurant in Asia
Quay – The Best Restaurant in Australasia
Lifetime Achievement Award – Thomas Keller (The French Laundry)
The One to Watch Award – Le Grenouillere
World’s Best Female Chef Award – Elena Arzak (Arzak)
Chefs’ Choice Award – Mugaritz
Highest Climber Award – The Ledbury
Slow Food Award – NEW for 2012 – Steirereck
The Highest New Entry Award – Dinner by Heston
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