Noma, the restaurant in Copenhagen whose chef Rene Redzepi forages for ingredients, was last night named the world's best for the second straight year.
While that's a triumph for the young Dane who has won the admiration of his peers around the globe, it's not a great surprise: With the imminent closure of Ferran Adria's El Bulli, north of Barcelona, Spain, the field was clear for Redzepi, 33.
What did emerge yesterday was a challenge by other Spanish establishments for the top spot in the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants awards in London. El Celler de Can Roca, run by three brothers in Girona, climbed two places to second after gaining one last year and looks like a contender for the future best. Mugaritz, in San Sebastian, came third. Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, was fourth and Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck, in the U.K., dropped to fifth.
The awards started as a feature in Restaurant magazine in 2002 and have grown in prominence. The results were announced at a reception in London's Guildhall that was attended by chefs and restaurateurs including Daniel Boulud, whose New York flagship Daniel slipped three places to 11th. Best in North America was Alinea, Chicago, which rose one place to sixth, with Per Se in 10th place.
"The World's 50 Best is important because it's a global tally and there aren't many of those," Boulud said yesterday in an interview at his London venue, Bar Boulud. "People compare it to the Michelin guide but they are completely different and we need them both. Also, this event brings together chefs from around the world. It's almost creating a new family."
Other U.S. establishments in the list included Le Bernardin (18th), Eleven Madison Park (which jumped 26 places to 24th) and Momofuku Ssam Bar (which fell 14 positions to 40th).
Les Creations de Narisawa, Tokyo, was best in Asia, jumping 12 places to 12th. The highest climber was Nihonryori RyuGin, in Tokyo, which jumped to 20th from 48th. Australasia's best was Quay, Sydney, which advanced one position to 26th.
U.K. restaurants included St. John (41st) and Hibiscus (43rd).
The winners are picked by 837 chefs, food writers and restaurateurs from around the world. I'm a member of the U.K. panel and each of us votes confidentially, without meeting — or even necessarily knowing the identity of — the other voters. The U.K. and Ireland panel is headed by Jay Rayner. Members of the academy are required to have eaten at the restaurants that we nominate within the previous 18 months.
As generally is the case with the awards, which tend to favor experimentation and creativity over traditional excellence, French restaurants didn't fare well. Only Le Chateaubriand, Paris, made it into the top 10, compared with three from Spain and two from the U.S.
Francophiles may rightly point to the poor showing of giants of the chef world such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon. The tiny showing for Asia is also a shortcoming.
The awards are a snapshot of culinary fashions. Some of the winners — Adria and Redzepi among them — are likely to be remembered as key figures in the history of food. Others may be resigned to the recycle bin of gastronomy.
Noma — which stands for "Nordisk Mad," or Nordic Food — is housed in a warehouse by the waterside in Copenhagen's Christianshavn district. Redzepi travels the region in search of ingredients and inspiration for his seasonal menu. Noma entered the awards table at 33 in 2006.
The lunch menu at Noma is 1,095 kroner ($210) for seven courses and there is a 12-course menu for 1,395 kroner. It's another 1,045 kroner with matching wines. Dishes may include potatoes and milk skin, lovage and yogurt; beef cheek and pear, verbena, endive. When I last dined there, the only meat was reindeer tongue.
The restaurant is usually fully booked months in advance. Reservations for August will open on May 2 at 10 a.m. and for September on June 1. If you want to try for a table, two things to remember are: Lunch is easier than dinner; tables of four or more are less difficult to get than tables for two.
Redzepi said in an interview with Bloomberg in December that the day after Noma topped the awards last year, more than 100,000 people tried to book online, enough to fill the restaurant for more than 14 years.
Adria's El Bulli, which has been in the top three every year, will close for good on July 30, when it becomes a culinary academy. Chef Thomas Keller's French Laundry, which won in 2003 and 2004, dropped out of the top 50, having placed at 32 last year. Others to go included Die Schwartzwaldstube, Jaan Par Andre, La Colombe, Mathias Dahlgren, Oaxen Krog, Tetsuya's and wd~50.
Another U.K. winner was the Ledbury, Australian chef Brett Graham's venue near Notting Hill, which was the highest new entry, taking 34th place. Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana won the Chefs' Choice Award.
The Top 50
1 Noma, Denmark (1)
2 El Celler De Can Roca, Spain (4)
3 Mugaritz Spain (5)
4 Osteria Francescana Italy (6)
5 The Fat Duck, U.K. (3)
6 Alinea, U.S. (7)
7 D.O.M, Brazil (18)
8 Arzak, Spain (9)
9 Le Chateaubriand, France (11)
10 Per Se, U.S. (10)
11 Daniel, U.S. (8)
12 Les Creations De Narisawa, Japan (24)
13 L'Astrance, France (16)
14 L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon, France (29)
15 Hof Van Cleve, Belgium (17)
16 Pierre Gagnaire, France (13)
17 Oud Sluis, Netherlands (19)
18 Le Bernardin, U.S. (15)
19 L'Arpege, France (Re-Entry)
20 Nihonryori Ryugin, Japan (48)
21 Vendome, Germany (22)
22 Steirereck, Austria (21)
23 Schloss Schauenstein, Switzerland (30)
24 Eleven Madison Park, U.S. (50)
25 Aqua, Germany (34)
26 Quay, Australia (27)
27 Iggy's, Singapore (28)
28 Combal Zero, Italy (35)
29 Martin Berasategui, Spain (33)
30 Bras, France (Re-Entry)
31 Biko, Mexico (46)
32 Le Calandre, Italy (20)
33 Ristorante Cracco, Italy (Re-Entry)
34 The Ledbury, U.K. (New Entry)
35 Chez Dominique, Finland (23)
36 Le Quartier Francais, South Africa (31)
37 Amber, China (New Entry)
38 Dal Pescatore Italy (36)
39 Il Canto, Italy (40)
40 Momofuku Ssam Bar, U.S. (26)
41 St John, U.K. (43)
42 Astrid Y Gaston, Peru (New Entry)
43 Hibiscus, U.K. (49)
44 La Maison Troisgros, France (44)
45 Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee, France (41)
46 De Librije, Netherlands (37)
47 Hotel De Ville, Switzerland (14)
48 Varvary, Russia (New Entry)
49 Pujol, Mexico (New entry)
50 Etxebarri, Spain (Re-Entry)
The Next 50:
51 Quique Dacosta, Spain
52 Mathias Dahlgren, Sweden
53 Attica, Australia
54 De Karmeliet, Belgium
55 Les Amis, Singapore
56 The French Laundry, U.S.
57 Frantzen/Lindeberg, Sweden
58 Tetsuya's, Australia
59 Fasano, Brazil
60 Hakkasan, U.K.
61 Rust en Vrede, South Africa
62 Jean Georges, U.S.
63 Oaxen Krog, Sweden
64 Bo Innovation, Hong Kong
65 Momofuku Ko, U.S.
66 Zuma, U.K.
67 Maison Pic, France
68 Mirazur, France
69 Manresa, U.S.
70 Marque, Australia
71 Faaviken Sweden
72 L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Hong Kong
73 Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany
74 Mani, Brazil
75 Coi, U.S.
76 Caprice, Hong Kong
77 Nahm, U.K.
78 La Grenouillere, France
79 Vila Joya, Portugal
80 Tantris, Germany
81 wd-50, U.S.
82 La Colombe, South Africa
83 Semifreddo, Russia
84 Le Gavroche, U.K.
85 The Bazaar, U.S.
86 La Pergola, Italy
87 Malabar, Peru
88 GaesteHaus Klaus Erfort, Germany
89 Bar Boulud, U.K.
90 Kitcho Arashiyama, Japan
91 Blue Hill at Stone Barns, U.S.
92 Wasabi, India
93 Sant Pau, Spain
94 Akelarre, Spain
95 Masa's, U.S.
96 Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, U.K.
97 Le Meurice, France
98 L'Arnsbourg, France
99 Chaika, Moscow
100 Andre, Singapore