Last week saw the announcement of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in Bilbao, northern Spain.
An event that started as a stand-up drinks in a London bar as a cheapo marketing exercise for Restaurant Magazine (with just about all the early staff on the mag’ since claiming it was their idea) has grown into a major global networking event and a hugely profitable one for its owners William Reed.
The actual basis for the World’s 50-Best has gone largely unquestioned by the media, who have found it a mega-convenient event to hang an easy story on over the years. The collective wisdom of the various continental judging teams (which the cynical might describe as a series of media-luvvie piss-ups over the back of a number of large envelopes in a collection of bars from Bangkok to Brighton) has been spared much in the way of scrutiny.
Away from the print media this year however, online upstarts Eater London have decided its time to throw a spanner in the works, asking some of the evident questions about the selection of restaurants fielded for the UK. One of the quirks to catch the most attention was the fact Clare Smyth won ‘Best Female Chef’, yet her restaurant, Core, failed to place.
Marks out of 10?
We have yet to rate Core from this year’s survey, but were impressed when the chef was heading up Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, when her “absolutely impeccable” cuisine helped the famous restaurant climb back up the Harden’s ratings. Watch this space for how her new gaff fares in the 2019 edition.
Core aside, this year there are four London restaurants on the World’s 50 Best (which was won by Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy).
James Lowe’s Lyle’s –“a pioneer in the new world of London restaurants and the UK scene generally” – in Shoreditch, is 2018’s only London restaurant to place on the top 50 for the first time. Two years ago, we would have hailed the decision as unquestionably correct, although the 2018 survey for the restaurant was a tad more variable than previously.
Deserving incumbents on the list include Isaac McHale’s Clove Club at 33 (“an absolute balance between sophistication, simplicity, and creativity”), Brett Graham’s“stunning” and “sophisticated” Ledbury, at number 42 (previously 27).
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental, (run by Ashley Palmer-Watts) came in at number 45. What Dinner is doing on the list is anyone’s guess. Actually it’s not, it’s clearly a lazy nod to Heston Blumenthal’s celebrity as feedback in the last few year’s surveys fairly clearly signposts:
“I am perplexed as to how it achieved a second Michelin Star and made it onto the World’s 50 Best!” from last year’s survey sums up the current Harden’s view perfectly.