Fifteen years ago, Restaurant magazine ran a once-off feature article about the World’s 50 Best Restaurants – the awards night to celebrate the results proved so successful that a tradition was born and since 2002 the culinary world has collectively held its breath around April each year to see who’s made the cut and who hasn’t. While South Africa have proudly made the top 50 before, this year we feature in the top 100 which is still a huge honour considering the wealth of talent out there – The Test Kitchen came in at number 64 and La Colombe came in at number 74.
There’s no denying the privilege of making it onto such an esteemed list, but how exactly is the pecking order determined you may ask? The answer would be the World’s Best Restaurants Academy – the Academy is made up of over 1000 members, each selected because of their expertise in the international restaurant scene. To ensure fair coverage across the globe, the world is divided up into 26 geographical regions; each region has an appointed chairperson, someone well versed in their part of the gastronomic world; who then selects a voting panel of 40 (including themselves) made up from all walks of culinary life, from chefs and food journalists to restaurateurs and gourmets. In the interest of fairness all panel members, with the exception of the Chair and Vice Chairs, remain anonymous. Panelists are then asked to choose their top 10 restaurants that they’ve dined at in the 18 months prior to the voting.
So, what constitutes ‘best’? While the selection process itself is a subjective matter – after all, what one person might enjoy eating another may dislike – there are a few factors that are taken into account. Naturally the quality of the food is paramount, but so too is the service, along with the surroundings and atmosphere of each establishment. In the words of the Academy ‘we allow those 1042 experts to make up their own minds, and we simply collate their votes’. Topping the list this year is Eleven Madison Park in New York, the iconic restaurant where hospitality and cuisine are elevated to art forms. Signature dishes include roast duck in its many forms, from the timeless honey and lavender version to honey-glazed with turnips and huckleberries – all part of the seven-course tasting menu. If you’re suitably tempted to dine on sumptuous multi-course fare, consider making a reservation at The Test Kitchen or La Colombe – there might be a waiting list, but gastronomic excellence is well worth the wait don’t you think?