50 Best Restaurants

A moment’s thought is all you need to decide it’s a load of bollocks. Or, to be fairer, as a measure of great restaurants around the world, it’s bollocks; as a marketing wheeze it’s terrific. It’s the United Nations of gastronomy. Practically every country in the world gets a shout, although some seem to shout louder than others. Could it be that there’s kind of 50 Best Restaurants circuit? Heaven forfend.

But can you assure me that the same criteria really are applied fairly all round? Are there any criteria at all?

Hurray for The Ledbury, although if the 50 Best Restaurants had any real validity, it would be higher than it is. But has the Fat Duck really slipped that much? And does St John’s, admirable though it is in every way, actually represent a greater experience in this country than eating, say, at Sat Bains or Nathan Outlaw or Glyn Purnell or Tom Kitchen or Dinner by HB, come to that?

And can anyone explain to me what Noma is doing that Marc Veyrat  at L’Auberge de Mont Pere or Edouard Loubet at the Restaurant Lourmarin weren’t doing ten years ago. Roots, forgotten hedgerow herbs, weird berries and fruits, foraging – the whole kit ab caboodle were all there, and still are. Of course, they’re in France, so they probably don’t count.

In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king, and in the absence of anything else, 50 Best Restaurants obviously has a curious kind of currency. It gives newspapers a few uncomprehending headlines. It creates a tsunami of gossip. It provides pr and marketing companies with an ocean of froth. And it gives a lot of chefs to come to London for a fabulous love-in. Something for everyone – just so long as we don’t think it actually means anything.

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