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Travel and Dining
World’s Top 50 Restaurants 2005
Europe-based Restaurant Magazine recently revealed the 50 Best Restaurants in the World for 2005, chosen by an international panel of more than 600 impossible-to-please restaurateurs, chefs, food critics and industry experts.
The winner of the coveted number one spot was The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, Britain. The pioneering restaurant is famed for introducing the world to delicacies such as snail porridge, mussels in popcorn sauce, and bacon and egg ice cream. The bizarre-sounding dishes are part of The Fat Duck’s bid to create food that is both delicious and fun. In addition to “Best Restaurant in the World,” the Fat Duck also picked up an award for the second year in a row for “Best Restaurant in Europe.”
Of the top 50, 14 of the restaurants are in Britain. According to Restaurant Magazine, “There will be some who feel this year’s list is too London-centric, with 26 percent of the list given over to restaurants in and around the English capital.”
It is interesting to note that according to Jay Rayner, The Observer food critic, “London has only one Michelin three-star restaurant and three two-star. Paris has more than half a dozen three-star restaurants and about 20 two-star establishments.” But the best restaurants in London topped at 11, while best restaurants in Paris received only 6 awards.
And with the United States-based Gourmet Magazine recently declaring London “The best place to eat on the planet,” maybe its days of bangers and baked beans are over.
French Laundry, in California, went from the No. 1 spot last year to No. 3 this year, but won the award for “Best Restaurant in America.” El Bulli in Spain won the “Chef’s Choice” and Enotica Pinchiorri in Italy won the “Editors Choice.” Only six New York restaurants made the top 50 including Per Se in seventh place and Jean Georges in ninth.
The 50 best rankings and a full list of award winners are shown below.
50 Best Restaurants in the World 2005
Individual Award Winners
Best Restaurant in the World:
Best Restaurants in France:
Best Restaurants in Britain:
Best Restaurants in the United States:
The Only Caribbean Restaurant on the top 50 List:
Top Ten Best Restaurants in the World: A Review
THE FAT DUCK
This is the place that does bacon-and-egg ice cream, snail porridge and sardine-on-toast sorbet. So you can safely say you’ve never had a meal like it. Run by chef Heston Blumenthal since it opened in 1995, it already has three Michelin stars under its belt. The spectacular eight-course tasting menu costs $225.
Bookings: Reserve two weeks in advance for weekdays and at least a month ahead for weekends.
Where to stay: Make a gastronomic weekend of it and stay at the Michelin-starred nine-room Waterside Inn.
With sweeping views of the Costa Brava and an unprecedented approach to food, El Bulli is a great adventure for the traveling gourmet. Ferran Adria opens his restaurant from March to September; the rest of the time, he’s in his workshop, experimenting with new tastes and techniques. Be his guinea pig and sign up for the $265 tasting menu.
Bookings: Don’t hold your breath, but worth the phone call to see if there are any availabilities.
Where to stay: Nearby Roses is packed and touristy. Head in the other direction to Cala Joncols, a fairly modest 25-room hotel in its own gardens behind the beach.
“Is it possible that the best French restaurant is not in France?” asks the critic from Le Monde. Well, it certainly appears so. Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley French country restaurant is unforgettable. The 10-course tasting menu is incredible. Open with bagaduce oysters and ossetra caviar, then wing through variations on truffles, tuna nicoise, sweet butter-poached lobster, chicken and dumplings, spring lamb and so on, finishing in triumph with the delice au chocolat et caramel. Heaven-on-a-plate for $220.
Bookings: Reserve up to two months in advance.
Where to stay: Continue the French-California theme at Maison Fleurie — five minutes from the restaurant. It has 13 rooms set in a peaceful landscaped garden. Bicycles are provided to help tick off the surrounding Napa wineries.
Every dish is a masterpiece at this amazing inner city oasis, where France walks down the aisle with Japan. Set in a tranquil Japanese garden, you’ll be amazed by what Head Chef Testsuya Wakuda can do with food. Tetsuya’s cuisine is unique, based on the Japanese philosophy of natural seasonal flavors, enhanced by classic French technique. Tetsuya’s renowned degustation set menu changes frequently. A typical meal could start with a plate of hors d’oeuvres — a gazpacho with spiced tomato sorbet, tartare of tuna with fresh wasabi and tataki of venison with rosemary and honey. Tetsuya’s signature dish follows, confit of ocean trout served with unpasteurised ocean trout roe, followed by double cooked deboned spatchcock with braised daikon and bread sauce, followed by a grilled fillet of grain fed beef with sansho and shiitake mushrooms. Desserts include an orange, honey and black pepper sorbet served prior to a blue cheese bavarois. Finally, early season berries with orange and Grand Marnier jelly and champagne ice cream, a floating island with vanilla and praline anglaise, and a flourless chocolate cake with a bitter chocolate sorbet and orange ice cream. Tetsuya’s offers one of Sydney’s most remarkable wine lists, and will match the dishes with wine available by the glass. The combination of excellent food and superb service will make this culinary experience unforgettable.
Bookings: Bookings are essential and can be made one week ahead of time. All major credit cards are accepted.
Ramsay’s first and best, established in 1998 and sporting a well deserved three stars since 2001. When he’s not roasting his kitchen staff, Ramsay oversees a particularly intimate setup here — there are just 14 tables. At $213, the seven-course menu prestige is great value, especially with the wine list starting at $30. Treats include tortellini of lobster and sautéed loin of venison with creamed cabbage and bitter chocolate sauce.
Bookings: You can make a reservation up to one calendar month in advance.
Where to stay: The boutique Myhotel Chelsea is a 15-minute walk from the restaurant.
El Bulli’s Adria has been dubbed the Salvador Dali of cooking. Gagnaire should be its Matisse: a bold, experimental chef cooking up a storm in the chic 8th arrondissement. The nine-course prix fixe menu costs $373. Leave room for the famous Grand Dessert, seven mini delights such as rum baba, roasted rhubarb and buckwheat pancake.
Bookings: Reservations are taken up to a month ahead.
Where to stay: The 1920’s Hotel Elysees Matignon is also in the 8th arrondissement.
Chef Thomas Keller, whose French Laundry (California) is one of the best restaurants in the United States, has opened his newest establishment far from the bucolic Napa Valley. The $12 million Per Se, with a sleek wood-and-glass design by Adam Tihany and views of Columbus Circle, is on the fourth floor of the galleria of shops in the new Time Warner complex, near Central Park. Not only is the food superb (try the sensational rack of baby lamb), it’s also fun: miniature ice-cream cones filled with salmon tartare, “Jurassic” salt that’s 30 million years old, tiny panna cotta made with cauliflower and topped with an oyster glaze and a dollop of osetra caviar. Don’t miss the exotic desserts like poached Asian pear-Spanish almond tart and the perfect crème brûlée topped with a paper-thin sheet of glazed sugar. The service is amazing, unparalleled except perhaps by that at French Laundry. Per Se is grand luxe without the pretention: “Here’s coffee and a doughnut,” said the waiter, setting down a semifreddo in a cup frothed like a cappuccino alongside a small hot beignet shaped like a ring with a ball on top. (Five-course tasting menu, $125; nine-course chef’s tasting menu, $175.)
Exclusive, high quality and worth every penny, Tom Aikens is one of the finest restaurants in London. Celebrities, business people and locals alike are flocking to the restaurant to discover for themselves if the gastronomic modern French cuisine really is up there with the likes of Gordon Ramsay’s. Delectable dishes include roasted foie gras with beetroot pickle and syrup, and roast langoustines with peas and braised veal shin. The secluded Elystan Street location, led by a young, talented husband and wife team, Tom Aikens is a real winner. Awarded a Michelin star within 10 months of opening, there is no doubt another is not far away.
Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s prix-fixe restaurant near Central Park is a true culinary destination. The main dining room is dressed in neutral colors, with beige banquettes and minimal decoration. Vongerichten’s Asian-accented French cooking shows a like-minded restraint, with some unusual combinations: sea scallops in caper-raisin emulsion with caramelized cauliflower is an outstanding example. Elegant desserts, exceedingly personalized service, and a well-selected wine list contribute to the overall experience. The Nougatine serves a more moderate à la carte menu in the front area, with a view of the open kitchen.
Bookings: Reservations essential one week in advance. Jacket required. American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa. Closed Sunday. Subway: A, B, C, D, 1, 9 to 59th St.-Columbus Circle.
Head chef Fergus Henderson is working wonders with some of the strangest cuts of meat you will eat. Once a smokehouse, they have cleverly kept the white stone walled setting intact. Complete with its famous in-house bakery, the bread, which greets you as you sit down, is a welcome appetizer. Mainly a meat eating paradise, the menu changes every day and the latest fare can be found on their website. Their widgeon, a gamey duck, is soft, succulent and unforgettable. Their ox tail is served braised, in delicious dark gravy, is fall-off-the-bone incredible. To make the dish an altogether melting experience the accompanying mash is a perfect sidekick. With an excellent wine list, St. John is the perfect dining experience.
Notable Top 50 Restaurant Reviews:
Chef Paul Owen’s innovative and creative cuisine has been matched with an imaginative setting awash in candlelight and art, where every table has a view of the Caribbean Sea. The restaurant is located on a cliff top, overlooking the calm waters of the Caribbean. First opened in 1995, The Cliff has established itself as one of the finest and most popular restaurants in the entire Caribbean. Open for dinner only, the restaurant is truly magical at night when it is illuminated with candles and torches for a romantic ambience. The Cliff is famous for cuisine that blends the flavors of the Caribbean with those of other nations. Diners can begin their meal with classic appetizers such as foie gras and chicken liver parfait with apple and raisin chutney and port glaze, ravioli filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, spinach, or snails in puff pastry. Chef Owen’s entrees cover the gamut from traditional dishes such as filet of beef, duck breast with wild mushroom sauce, veal chop with Dijon mustard and tarragon sauce to dishes infused with the exotic such as Thai curried shrimp and grilled snapper with three coriander sauces. Don’t miss the restaurant’s sinful desserts which include such classics as crème brûlée with red berry coulis, chocolate mousse, petit fours as well as baked apple crumble and white chocolate cheesecake.
Bookings: Reservations are required especially during the winter season.
Just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe, Savoy completes the Parisian triumvirate, with classic tasting menus from $375. “To grow a carrot, you have to wait several weeks,” says the master chef. “We need to have a deep respect for the product.” And he does.
Bookings: You are looking at two or three weeks for an 8 p.m. table.
Where to stay: Hotel de Banville (166 Boulevard Berthier; is a classic, right in the heart of Paris and just a five-minute taxi ride from the restaurant. (With what you’ll be eating you should walk.)
L’ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON
Joel Robuchon doesn’t have tables in his restaurant — diners sit on bar stools around the open kitchen. So, one of France’s best restaurants is a long way from the haughty haute cuisine you might expect. Le Figaro was in no doubt: “C’est une revolution!” Expect to pay about $186.
Bookings: You don’t. You turn up with crossed fingers, put your name on the list and wait at the bar.
Where to stay: The restaurant is attached to the historic Hotel Pont Royal or, 15 minutes away, try Hotel de la Tulipe, hidden in an ancient convent.
As opulent dining rooms go, this has to be the most opulent: huge chandeliers, ornate frescoes and a quite preposterous flower arrangement. It’s palatial, but Alain Ducasse’s menu does it proud, with true Riviera cuisine: Limousin veal, Pyrenean lamb and amazing local herbs and breads. The six-course (and more) menu gourmet costs $335.
Bookings: Call two or three weeks in advance.
Where to stay: Forget the budget. This is Monaco — live how the other half does at the spectacular Hotel de Paris, home to the Louis XV.
On a hilltop in the middle of the French countryside sits this post-postmodern temple of cuisine, like something that’s dropped out of Stanley Kubrick’s “Space Odyssey.” The two menus — $165 and $269 — are a riot of rare ingredients, accompanied by equally rare wines.
Bookings: Phone at least two months in advance. The restaurant is open between April and October; we recommend booking in January.
Where to stay: The easiest way to get a table is to stay at super-cool Michel Bras itself.
The fact that it is still the ultimate celebrity haunt shouldn’t put you off. There are eight Nobu’s around the world, but London’s is consistently rated the best, its star quality a result not just of the incredible Japanese/South American menu (don’t miss the black cod with miso), but of the sophisticated service and style. The chef’s menu costs $185.
Bookings: Reserve two weeks ahead for a Friday night, three weeks for a Saturday evening.
Where to stay: Nobu is part of the super-trendy Metropolitan. We recommend trying it.