The best restaurants in the World in 2021
The gentle clinking of glasses, the murmur of conversation, the soft lights and the aromas that whet the appetite. All of this was pitifully missed when restaurants around the World were forced to close their doors in 2020 and 2021, the ovens went cold, and the owners and workers faced an uncertain future.
The World's50BestRestaurantAwards, an event considered the Oscars of the fine-dining World, was also forced to take a break last year, but it's finally back, and the top two restaurants on the list are in Copenhagen. The number 1 spot this year goes to perhaps the best-known name in gastronomy: Noma. Danish chef René Redzepi's three-Michelin-starred restaurant first opened in Copenhagen's Christianshavn neighborhood in 2003 and took first place in the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2010.
A new rule introduced in the 2019 awards made previous winners of the first title ineligible, but Noma passed as it closed in 2016 and reopened in a new location in Copenhagen two years later. This fundamental rule change excludes New York's Eleven Madison Park, The Fat Duck near London, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, and 2019 winner Mirazur in Menton, France. These restaurants now fall under a separate "Best of the Best" program, of which Noma is the newest member.
The struggle for survival
Taking to the stage at the Flanders Convention and Meeting Centre in Antwerp, Belgium, Redzepi recalled the life-changing experience of winning the award for the first time 11 years ago: "In the wake of this victory, all dreams seemed open. It also allowed us to be part, apart, of a transformation of the food culture of a whole region".
He also reflected on the difficult times facing the industry. "If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's how fragile our dreams can be, how incredibly grueling and difficult this industry can be," he said.
"I want to acknowledge all the restaurants and people in the industry who have struggled to survive. It feels a little strange to be standing on this stage knowing that there are still so many people struggling."
To end on a hopeful note, he said of the Noma team, "We spent the last year and a half-dreaming something up. So let's build it now.
The good news in Lima
Diners who can't get a table at Noma can always try its Copenhagen neighbor Geranium, in second place, where chef Rasmus Kofoed serves an adventurous seasonal menu that speaks to his love of seafood. Ingredients on offer include squid, melted smoked lard, and yeast essence.
Elsewhere in Western Europe, Spain's performance this year was also solid. Asador Etxebarri in Larrabetzu, where all dishes, including desserts, are cooked on the grill, took third place, while his peers chose chef Víctor Arguinzoniz as the winner of the Chefs' Choice Award. Disfrutar, in Barcelona, climbed to number 5, Mugaritz in San Sebastian slipped to number 14, while DiverXO in Madrid came in at number 20.
Lima has two restaurants in the top 10: Central, from chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, which moved up two places to fourth, and Maido at number 7, whose offering is Japanese-Peruvian fusion, featuring lucuma ice cream topped with soy sauce and macambo foam. Despite renowned restaurants in Lima and elsewhere from Mexico City to Singapore making the top 10, no restaurant outside of Europe or North America has won the World's 50 Best awards.
Since the competition's inception in 2002, the 18 winners have come from Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, and France.
Honoring female talent
Central's Pía León not only celebrated the award for Best Restaurant in South America but was also named World's Best Female Chef. It's an honor that attracts some controversy, as critics see it as a reinforcement of the inequality that the event's organizers say it helps address.
French-born Dominique Crenn, co-owner, and chef of San Francisco's Atelier Crenn (number 48 on the list), won the Icon award. William Drew, content director of The World's 50 Best Restaurants, said, "Crenn is not only an outstanding chef and restaurateur, she is an example of someone who speaks truth to power in every aspect of her life, through her leadership, humanity and a never-ending campaign for social justice both inside and outside the hospitality sphere."
Hiša Franko from Slovenia, headed by Ana Roš, winner of the 2017 World's Best Female Chef award, also had a good night: up 17 places in the rankings to No. 21.
The Art of Hospitality award went to Steirereck of Vienna at number 12, where highlights might include sunflower and Jerusalem artichoke with lamb sweetbreads or the signature charred fish cooked tableside in beeswax with yellow carrot "pollen" and sour cream.
Boragó, in Santiago, Chile, number 38 on the list, won the Sustainable Restaurant Award. It has its own biodynamic farm and a focus on hyper-local, "zero kilometers" cuisine. Ikoyi, in London's St. James's, took home the "One to Watch" award. Run by childhood friends Jeremy Chan and Ire Hassan-Odukale, it serves authentic West African flavors in an elegant, modern setting. Will Goldfarb of Bali Room 4 Dessert, American-born star of the Netflix series "Chef's Table," won Best Pastry Chef.
The 50 best restaurants in the World
- Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Geranium (Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Asador Etxebarri (Axpe, Spain)
- Central (Lima, Peru) *Best restaurant in South America*.
- Enjoy (Barcelona, Spain)
- Frantzén (Stockholm, Sweden)
- Maido (Lima, Peru) (Up three places)
- Odette (Singapore) * Best restaurant in Asia *.
- Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico) *Best Restaurant in North America *.
- The Chairman (Hong Kong) * Awarded to the highest climber *.
- Den (Tokyo, Japan)
- Steirereck (Vienna, Austria) * Art of Hospitality Award *.
- Don Julio (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
- Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain)
- Lido 84 (Gardone Riviera, Italy) * New Entry Grand Prize*.
- Elkano (Getaria, Spain)
- A Casa do Porco (São Paulo, Brazil)
- Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)
- Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
- DiverXO (Madrid, Spain)
- HišaFranko (Kobarid, Slovenia)
22 . Cosme (New York)
- Arpège (Paris, France)
- Septime (Paris, France)
- White Rabbit (Moscow, Russia)
- Le Calandre (Rubano, Italy)
- Quintonil (Mexico City, Mexico)
- Benu (San Francisco, California)
- Reale (Castel di Sangro, Italy)
- TwinsGarden (Moscow, Russia)
- Restaurant TimRaue (Berlin, Germany)
- The CloveClub (London, United Kingdom)
- Lyle's (London, United Kingdom)
- Burnt Ends (Singapore) * New entry *.
- Ultraviolet (Shanghai, China)
- Hof van Cleve (Kruishoutem, Belgium)
- SingleThread (Healdsburg, California)
- Boragó (Santiago, Chile) * Sustainable Restaurant Award *.
- Florilege (Tokyo, Japan) * New entry *.
- Sühring (Bangkok, Thailand)
- AllénoParis auPavillonLedoyen ( Paris, France )
- Belcanto (Lisbon, Portugal)
- Atomix (New York) * New entry *
- LeBernardin (New York)
- Nobelhart&Schmutzig (Berlin, Germany) * New entry *
- Leo (Bogotá, Colombia)
- Maaemo (Oslo, Norway)
- AtelierCrenn (San Francisco, California)
- Azurmendi (Larrabetzu, Spain)
- Wolfgat (Paternoster, South Africa) * Best restaurant in Africa*.