The Modena hotspot reclaimed first place at the 2018 edition of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on June 22, 2018

At an awards ceremony in Bilbao, Spain on 19 June 2018 it was announced that Massimo Bottura’s fine diner, which had ranked second last year, was back on top. The awards are sometimes known as the Oscars of the fine dining world.

“We built this together,” Bottura told guests at the awards ceremony. “I’m not going to disappoint you, I’m going to show the world that chefs in 2018 are much more than the sum of their recipes if we stay together.”

Also riding high on the list were Catalonian restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain (ranked number two), and Mirazur in Menton, France (three).

Last year’s top ranked Eleven Madison Park, New York fell to fourth place after being closed for renovations for four months.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located in Pocantico Hills, New York picked up the Chef’s Choice award while Disfrutar in Barcelona was the highest new entrant, at 18.

Osteria Francescana has previously taken top spot at the awards on two occasions. Its fixed price lunch and dinner menus cost around US$315 with wine pairings priced between US$160 to US$210.

Head Chef Bottura trained under towering figures such as Ferran Adria and Alain Ducasse and his style has been described as “unhinged avant-gardism”.

Bottura’s food is nothing if not high-concept. One dish ponders the concept of time. Another sees eel paired with things it may see on a river swim, including Saba, polenta and wild-apple jelly. Yet another dish was inspired by a conversation between Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein and involves powdered chocolate, spices, foie gras, wine and the blood of a wild hare fashioned into military camouflage colours.

List criticised for its lack of diversity

Not everyone was thrilled with the selections; Eater slammed the choices as limited in scope and tone deaf in the era of #MeToo.

“While so much of the food world is coming to grips with entrenched sexism and racism in the industry, its awards, and its adjacent media, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list isn’t really changing much at all.

“The list, in 2018, remains over 50 per cent European, shockingly expensive, inexcusably male, and with strong neo-colonialist overtones.”

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Gold was more sanguine but still felt the list was too Eurocentric. He also lamented the absence of Clare Smyth’s restaurant, Core, from the list.

The Northern Ireland-born Smyth previously ran the kitchen at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay where she became the first woman to be awarded three Michelin stars. She also catered the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, serving guests ‘posh burgers’ with pork belly and candy floss for dessert.

Smyth’s restaurant not making the cut was even more of a surprise given she won Best Female Chef at the event.

“We still have a real lack of women recognised at the top of the industry,” Smyth told attendees.

Attica rising and the new South American fine dining mecca

Australia only had one entry in the list with Melbourne’s Attica moving up 12 slots to 20. Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said it was a testament to Head Chef Ben Shewry’s passion and talent.

“Ben and Attica personify so perfectly the true essence of what makes the experience of eating and drinking in Australia so distinctive and unique: that wonderful interconnectedness of people, produce and place,” he said.

“Talented chefs such as Ben have undoubtedly played a part in what is, I think, a newfound appreciation by international visitors of Australia’s food and wine offering.”

Sydney heavyweights such as Sepia, Quay and Tetsuya’s (a previous winner of the Chef’s Choice award) were all overlooked.

Meanwhile, Lima, Peru confirmed its status as the new mecca for travelling foodies with Central and Maido claiming spots six and seven respectively. Central is known for grouping foods on its menu by the altitude they are grown at, while Maido offers a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine.

The top restaurants on the list:

  1. Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy)
  2. El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)
  3. Mirazur (Menton, France)
  4. Eleven Madison Park (New York City)
  5. Gaggan (Bangkok)
  6. Central (Lima, Peru)
  7. Maido (Lima, Peru)
  8. Arpege (Paris, France)
  9. Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain)
  10. Asador Etxebarri (Axpe, Spain)
  11. Quintonil (Mexico City, Mexico)
  12. Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, New York)
  13. Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)
  14. Steirereck (Vienna, Austria)
  15. White Rabbit (Moscow, Russia)
  16. Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)
  17. Den (Tokyo, Japan)
  18. Disfrutar (Barcelona, Spain), highest new entry
  19. Geranium (Copenhagen)
  20. Attica (Melbourne, Australia)