World's 50 best restaurants list: food isn't the only ingredient to judge

I've done my fair share of eating out over the years (I have the Body Mass Index to prove it) and I've been to only three of the restaurants on the list

 

Share

That you can have a terrible time in a really good restaurant, or a really good time in a terrible restaurant, is a truism that, of course, cannot be taken into consideration when a list of the world's best restaurants is being compiled. If there are to be objective criteria, they can only be applied to the food. But we know that the dining out experience is about much more than food. It's about mood, too. However, the fact that you had a blazing row with your partner over Heston's snail porridge, or that you arrived late, and in a temper, because of the Tube strike, is, I'm afraid, inadmissible evidence when it comes to judging culinary excellence.

The list of the top 50 restaurants in the world, as compiled by experts selected by Restaurant magazine, has been announced, and includes establishments as far apart - geographically as well as gastronomically - as China, Peru, Australia and Berkshire. The number one spot has been reclaimed by Noma in Copenhagen, the 45-seater restaurant where getting a table is about as straightforward as securing an audience with the Pope.

Reservations can only be made three months in advance, and on the sixth day of every month, the booking line opens. So, if you think you'll fancy a dish of live ants in September, get straight on the blower on May 6. An estimated 20,000 people will also be ringing, so be patient. (By the way, I had the live ants when Noma did a pop-up in London: lemony taste, not unpleasant, but I couldn't see what the fuss was about).

Anyway, I've done my fair share of eating out over the years (I have the Body Mass Index to prove it) and I've been to only three of the restaurants on the list. These are two of the three British entrants  - The Fat Duck, and Dinner, both engineered by Heston Blumenthal - and the only other one I could tick off is a relatively unheralded establishment in Portugal, which comes in at number 22 but is unquestionably the best restaurant I've ever visited.

Vila Joya is a family-run, unpretentious small hotel on the outskirts of Albufeira on the Algarve, but which has a kitchen that produces dishes of a quality and ingenuity that you wouldn't believe possible. There's no bacon and egg ice cream, or liquid nitrogen, or any other culinary fads or frivolities: here, they rely on local produce, and the original combination of flavours - for instance, salt cod with beetroot, or lobster with cauliflower purée. But the clue as to what makes Vila Joya special is in the name. This is an environment where there is joy, pleasure, and an unbuttoned enthusiasm for what they are creating.

My friend Ewan, an unashamed foodie who's been to many more restaurants on the list than I, picks l'Astrance in Paris (a fairly lowly 33) as his favourite. It's because, he says, it offers "great food with friendliness and personality". This goes back to my original point about food being only one ingredient in the dining experience. But the judges can't take all that into account, so I suppose this list, like any other such exercise, is best taken with a pitch of salt.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones