Travel and Dining
50 Best Restaurants in the World 2004
Europe-based Restaurant Magazine recently revealed the 50 Best Restaurants in the World for 2004, chosen by an international panel of more than 300 hard-to-please restaurateurs, chefs and critics.
The winner of the coveted number one spot was The French Laundry in California, famed for combining exceptional ingredients and wonderful surroundings with a fanatical attention to detail.
This is the second year running that chef Thomas Keller has scooped the award and he even found the time to open a second restaurant, Per Se, In New York.
The 50 Best rankings and a full list of award winners are shown below.
British restaurants had their strongest showing yet with The Fat Duck in Bray ranking at number two, and picking up awards for 'Best Newcomer to the List' and 'Best European Restaurant.'
London restaurants dominated this year's list. Entrants included classic fine-dining restaurants such as Le Gavroche and The Square, fashionable haunts with comfort food such as The Ivy and The Wolseley, winner of the 'Editors Choice' award, and quirky modern classics such as cult eatery St John. The latter restaurant won the 'Most improved Restaurant on the list' award and is famed for its signature dishes of 'Roasted bone marrow' and 'Squirrel with offal on toast.'
Thom Hetherington, Marketing Director for Restaurant Magazine said, "This has been the year of the big boys, with the world's recognized 'super-chefs' and major dining cities like London, New York and Paris all reasserting themselves. That said, it's great to see that such a variety of British restaurants made the list. Their styles range from fine dining to casual; quirky to classic and their cuisines include British, French, Italian and Japanese. It is this eclectic yet outstanding offering which makes London such a fabulous city to eat out in."
Restaurant Magazine — 50 Best Restaurants in the World 2004
- French Laundry, Yountville, CA, USA
- The Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire, UK
- El Bulli, Montjoi, Spain
- L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Rue de Montalembert, Paris
- Pierre Gagnaire, Rue Balzac, Paris
- Guy Savoy, Rue Troyon, Paris
- Nobu, Park Lane, London
- Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London
- Michel Bras, Laguiole, France
- Louis XV, Monaco
- Gramercy Tavern, New York
- Daniel, New York
- Tetsuya's, Sydney
- Hakkasan, London
- The Waterside Inn, Bray
- St. John, London
- L'Ami Louis, Paris
- Jean Georges, New York
- Le Gavroche, London
- Flower Drum, Melbourne
- The Merchant House, Ludlow
- Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
- Dal Pescatore, Canneto sull'Oglio, Italy
- The Ivy, London
- Arpege, Paris
- El Raco de Can Fabes, San Celoni, Spain
- Schwarzwaldstube, Baiersbronn, Germany
- The Cliff, Barbados
- Rockpool, Sydney
- Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons, Oxford
- Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab, Dubai
- Charlie Trotter, Chicago
- Le Jardin des Sens, Montpellier
- The Square, London
- Spago, Los Angeles
- Bukhara, India
- Chez Panisse, California
- Le Meurice, Paris
- Trois Gros, Roanne, France
- Balthazar, New York
- River Cafe, London
- La Tupina, Bordeaux
- Auberge d'Ill, Illhauseern-Alsace
- Craft, New York
- Le Tour d'Argent, Paris
- La Maison de Marc Veyrat, Annecy, France
- Felix, Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong
- De Karmeliet, Bruges
- The Wolseley, London
- Gambero Rosso, San Vincenzo
Individual Award Winners
Best Restaurant in the World: The French Laundry, CA, USA
Best American Restaurant: The French Laundry, CA, USA
Best European Restaurant: The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
Best African and Middle Eastern Restaurant: Al Mahara, Dubai
Best Asian Restaurant: Bukhara, New Delhi, India
Best Australasian Restaurant: Tetsuya's, Sydney, Australia
Best Newcomer to the List: The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
Most Improved Restaurant on the List: St. John, London, UK
Outstanding Value: Gramercy Tavern, NY, USA
Chef's Choice (voted for by last year's 50 Best): Tetsuya's, Sydney, Australia
Editor's Choice (voted for by editorial panel): The Wolseley, UK, London
Top Ten Best Restaurants in the World: A Review
"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 holds pole position for the second year running with his Napa Valley take on a three-star French country restaurant. 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.
THE FAT DUCK
Bray, Berkshire, UK
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 picked up its third Michelin star in January. The spectacular eight-course tasting menu includes all the above and 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. There is no availability left this year. Call now for dinner in April 2005.
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.
L'ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON
Rue de Montalembert, Paris
Ah, the French capital gets a look-in at last. You've got the next three entries to chose from, and the first marks the 2003 return from retirement of the most famous of French chefs. Joel Robuchon doesn't have tables in his restaurant — diners sit on bar stools around the open kitchen. So, France's best restaurant 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.
Rue Balzac, Paris
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.
Rue Troyon, Paris
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 8pm 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).
Park Lane, London
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.
RESTAURANT GORDON RAMSAY
Royal Hospital Road, London
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.
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.
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.