The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is out. The restaurant industry has taken quite a beating in the last year and a half, so the revival of the coveted 50 Best Restaurants List after a pandemic hiatus is an inspiration for all restaurants
The Oscars of the fine dining world are back. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 were revealed on October 5 at a glittering, red carpet event in Antwerp. The beleaguered restaurant industry has reason to cheer, as the world returns to normalcy and diners venture out tentatively.
As usual, there were a few surprises and some predictable outcomes. But perhaps most surprising of all was the No. 1 winner: Noma from Denmark. That’s because Noma has been No. 1 four times already and a new rule introduced in 2019 makes past winners of the No. 1 position ineligible for the list (they move to a ‘Best of the Best’ listing). But Noma got in because it had shut in 2016 and then reopened in a new location with a completely new concept, making it, effectively, a new restaurant, and eligible for the list.
The 50 Best list follows a stringent voting policy. The votes come from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, consisting of over 1,000 international restaurant industry experts, with a 50/50 gender balance. For the purposes of voting, the world is split into 26 separate regions, with each region having its own voting panel of 40 members including a chairperson heading it. A quarter of the panelists from each region change annually.
The panel typically comprises food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and well-travelled gourmets. Since international travel and dining opportunities were severely limited in 2020, the 2021 list has been created from a combination of votes cast in January 2020 (which were never published) and a ‘voting refresh’ which took place in March 2021. In the voting refresh, each voter had an opportunity to update their 2020 selections based only on restaurant experiences in their own region in the 14 months since the previous voting round.
Although there are no Indian restaurants on the list, there are two on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list: Indian Accent in New Delhi and Masque in Mumbai. And Sidecar in Delhi is No. 16 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list.
Here’s a closer look at the top 5 winners.
Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
Noma 2.0, as the new iteration of this pathbreaking restaurant is called, seems to have captured people’s hearts…and their tummies yet again with its New Nordic cuisine. It offers three menus at different times of year: seafood, vegetable, and game and forest. After each season, the restaurant closes to work on the next menu. Since the menu is based on foraged ingredients, it is said that no two experiences at Noma are ever the same (not unlike our own Masque). Standout dishes from the past have included celeriac shawarma and a duck dish of leg, brain and heart served with claw, feather and beak. Noma’s new location on Refshalevej Island includes a cutting-edge fermentation kitchen. Ingredients reportedly include everything from reindeer penis to deer brain and a variety of bugs.
“In 2010, when we stood at this stage and the words from the speaker blasted out that Noma was No. 1, it was truly a shock to my system—to everybody’s system—and certainly a shock to our reservation system…our website crashed multiple times,” recalled Chef Rene Redzepi at the 2021 awards ceremony in Antwerp.
+45 3296 3297, Refshalevej 96, 1432 Copenhagen, Denmark
Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark
Many restaurants conceptualise their menus around the seasons and seasonal ingredients, but Geranium gives seasonality a whole new meaning. In fact, the restaurant itself has weathered the seasons well, considering it opened in 2007. It’s the first Danish restaurant to get three Michelin stars. Kofoed is also the only chef to have won bronze, silver and gold medals at the Bocuse d’Or, a global cooking competition. His devotion to his craft has seen Geranium climb up the list from No. 49 in 2012 to second position this year.
The restaurant has a somewhat strange location, inside Denmark’s national soccer stadium but the kitchen has nice views of the pitch. Chef Kofoed is fond of sea-foraging and their latest Autumn Universe selection offers such delights as Jerusalem artichoke leaves and pickled walnut, besides several fish and seafood courses in a menu that runs 16 courses long.
+45 69 96 00 20, Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8 DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark
Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo, Spain
No. 3 on the list, Asador Etxebarri is set in a rustic stone building in the lush foothills of the Spanish Basque Country, and enjoys sprawling views of the surrounding mountains. It’s all about fire here and Basque chef Victor Arguinzoniz is known for being able to grill anything and everything and tease incredible flavours out of quotidian ingredients in the process. In fact, the chef has designed the grills at the restaurant himself, to have total control over the cooking process. Such is their dedication to their craft, they even make their own coals using specific woods only for specific meats and fish. The menu includes chorizos, anchovies and beef chops. Even the desserts have a hint of smoke, we’re told.
+34 946 58 30 42, San Juan Plaza, 1, 48291 Axtondope, Bizkaia, Spain
Central, Lima, Peru
Central is a love letter to Peru written by chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León (who are also husband and wife). The dishes celebrate the country’s traditions and produce in a myriad ways. A lot of research and exploration goes into the selection of ingredients, and the result is a table that offers the best of land and sea, from fresh scallops and clams to pork belly and goat’s neck. There’s a vegetable garden on the premises and sustainability is at the core of the restaurant’s operations.
+51 1 2428515, Av. Pedro de Osma 301, Barranco 15063, Lima, Peru
Disfrutar, Barcelona, Spain
Run by a trio of chefs—Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas and Eduard Xatruch—all ex-El Bulli, the restaurant uses contemporary techniques and daring combinations to delight diners (the restaurant’s name, after all, means ‘enjoy’). Panchino (a fluffy bun) stuffed with caviar and sour cream and a multi-spherical pesto with tender pistachios and eel are two iconic dishes, created to ‘please, surprise and excite’. In 2021, the restaurant team revealed a new trick up its table—literally. During the meal, the table comes to life, revealing secret compartments, drawers and delicious bites hidden in its innards.
+34 933 48 68 96, C. de Villarroel, 163, 08036 Barcelona, Spain