The best restaurant in the world is Noma. Once again. It has won the award four times in the past.
The world’s most famous restaurant was number two on the 2019 list, and achieved the 2021 ranking although it spent almost as much time in 2020 operating as an outdoor burger joint as it did a fine dining restaurant. Noma re-opened on June 1, with a menu of summery, nature-evoking dishes like stuffed zucchini with bee larvae. In September, Noma was also awarded 3 Michelin stars for the first time.
It was a good year to be a Copenhagen restaurant: The Number 2 on the list was Geranium in Copenhagen, which serves creative Scandinavian food from a football stadium; grilling specialists Asador Extebarri in Spain were Number 3.
And one of the highest new entries on the list is Alchemist in Copenhagen, which appeared at number 58. The restaurant features 50 multi-sensory courses for a meal that promises to stretch a minimum of four hours. “Please be aware that Alchemist might not be the right choice for an evening of business discussions or that nervous first date,” states the website.
Last year’s winner, Mirazur in the south of France, was not eligible to win again. Previous winners now live in a ‘Best of the Best’ category, including the original Noma, which was set in a different location and had a different menu format, as well as Osteria Francescana, the fantastical Italian restaurant in Modena, which has won twice.
Another former winner not eligible this year is Eleven Madison Park in New York, although it has implemented a much hyped vegan menu.
This year’s rankings were compiled by combining votes cast in January 2020, before most of the world had been effected by covid-19, and a March 2021 ‘recasting.’ Voters could update their 2020 selections “based only on restaurant experiences in their own region in the 14 months since the previous voting round, reflecting the increased importance of local dining,” said 50 Best Director of Content William Drew, in an email. The March votes were done “where possible [to reflect] contemporary, local updates.” Which helps explain why the list looks like one partially frozen in pre-pandemic time. Voters paid no attention to innovations like the fancy restaurants’ meal kits that were popular in the U.S. and London during lockdown: “The list relates directly to in-restaurant experiences,” said Drew.
Still, the pandemic impacted the list. One of the world’s top chefs, Albert Adria, was forced to close his Barcelona restaurant, Tickets, earlier this year because of the city’s restrictions; in 2019, it held the number 20 spot. Another notable departure from the top 20 is Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee in Paris, which closed this year for undisclosed reasons after ranking 16 in 2019.
The ceremony, which took place in Antwerp, paid tribute to those places that Drew said, “would have been on the list if the awards had taken place in 2020,” including Relae in Copenhagen and Test Kitchen in Cape Town. There was also a nod to chefs who had died as a result of the pandemic, including the beloved Indian chef Floyd Cardoz.
The decision to combine the very different experiences of pre- and post-pandemic dining was the best way to address varying degrees of lockdown across the globe, he added. “In such circumstances, to create a credible list is naturally challenging, but we believe this edition is both credible, authentic and very important in helping the restaurant world in its recovery.”
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list has been around since 2002, when it appeared in the U.K. magazine Restaurant. It is organised and compiled by William Reed Business Media. It is created from the votes of over 1,000 restaurateurs, chefs and food writers as well as that amorphous group known as ‘foodies.’
Among the previously announced awards was the west African-influenced Ikoyi in London, as the ‘One to Watch.’ Pía León, the Peruvian-based cook whose places include Kjolle, Central and Mil, was named World’s Best Female Chef.