Happy chefs at the launch of The World's 50 Best Restaurants.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants have just released their annual run-down of the globe's top eating places and the winner is...
Actually, who cares?
Is the number one restaurant on the list really the best place to eat in the world? Can it better than the number two restaurant? Is the seventh restaurant on the list measurably worse than the ninth?
Or is the best restaurant in the world that little place you drive to each summer?
You know. The one which is just outside of Oban/Elie/Banff/Dumfries where you can eat freshly landed langoustines in the sunshine? The place which doesn't have a Michelin star, a PR team or an interior designer that gets name checks in Vogue. But does have a genuine sense of hospitality.
Booking a table: mission impossible
You can find the number one restaurant on the list plus the other 49 which are mentioned here.
I'm sure that the number one restaurant is a great place to eat with amazing, inventive food; a fantastic atmosphere and highly polished waiting staff.
I don't doubt that each dish takes months or years to develop and that every mouthful is a revelation.
Obviously, I'm sure that everything about the place from the weight of the cutlery to the scent of the soap in the loos has been carefully considered.
And, with tasting menus starting at €250, plus an additional €140,if you want the paired wine, I'm also sure that most people who read the list will never contemplate booking a table.
Or rather they will never even think about applying to get on the waiting list to get a table. And the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list won't make it any easier.
This isn't a grumble about the high prices at pretty much all of the restaurants on the list. Good ingredients are not cheap and the amount of highly skilled labour that goes into producing the finely worked dishes in these places is also expensive. And that is before we get onto the capital costs of premises and all the fittings and fixtures they need.
It might cost an arm and a leg but I'm sure a meal at any of the restaurants listed would be a memorable experience. My grumble is not with the restaurants,
My grumble is with the entire ethos of the 50 Best project. For most people, it is in no way useful. It is not a guide to the fifty best places to eat in the world.
World’s 50 Best Restaurants: bragging rights
Instead, it is a tick list. It is a boast list for people who have to be seen in the 'best' restaurants. It is a list of locations which simply have to be visited so that they can swank off about having eaten at the best restaurants in the world from Peru to Paris.
It's a vulgar pretext for one-upmanship: 'Oh, you went to Y. Couldn't get a booking for X, I suspect? I thought Y was pretty good. X was better.'
Who wants to eat with these people? They don't want to eat with each other. I'm not even sure they want to eat the food. Actually enjoying the meal is secondary to the bragging rights of securing a table. It is like having the right books in your library even if none of them have ever been opened.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants started in 2002 when the staff of Restaurant magazine went to the pub and thought it would be a cute stunt to do a listicle of the world's best restaurants.
It's a fun idea for a magazine article but it caught on. More importantly, it caught the attention of advertisers who could see that it would be a useful vehicle for branding. Magazine articles are supposed to be disposable. They don't have a fifteen year shelf life but this one grew legs.
What started as a stunt has grown into a monster. One that bears absolutely no relation to the way that most people eat out.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants? Aye, right.