Oct 7, 2021
AFTER TAKING A HIATUS LAST YEAR, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards came back with a bang for 2021 on October 5. In a lavish celebration, the globe’s culinary luminaries descended on Antwerp, Belgium, for the Oscars of the gastronomic world. The embattled hospitality industry has seen a lot of changes since the last Awards in 2019, a fact reflected in the movements across the 2021 list.
Surprising almost no one, Rene Redzepi’s revamped Noma concept in Copenhagen, Denmark, was named the World’s Best Restaurant for 2021. The original iteration made Noma one of the buzziest names in gastronomy and Noma 2.0 is clearly impressing again with creative, complex dishes made with unusual seasonal ingredients that the team forages for themselves. A new 50 Best rule introduced in 2019 means top-spot winners are ineligible for successive lists—shifting previous No. 1s like the most-recently reigning Mirazur to a new Best of the Best category—but Noma made the cut because of its new location, fresh concept, and restructured ownership.
Taking the stage in Antwerp, Redzepi acknowledged just how much the award meant after a grueling 18 months. “I want to recognize all the restaurants and industry people who have fought for survival…we spent the last year and a half dreaming of something. We’re going to go build it now.”
This year’s list had a truly global perspective, honoring restaurants across 26 countries and five continents. But even among these, it’s clear that there are certain cities and countries that have a deft hand for building incredible culinary destinations. The USA and Spain had a standout night, with each boasting six restaurants on the list.
New York seems to be the former’s culinary capital, with Cosme (No. 22), Atomix (a new entry at No. 43), and Le Bernardin (No.44, dropped from No.36) making the cut. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, with three restaurants awarded, the Basque Country seems to be Spain’s gastronomic center. Atxondo’s Asador Etxebarri nabbed two awards, retaining its No.3 position and chef Victor Arguinzoniz receiving the Chef’s Choice Awards, while Mugaritz (No. 14) and Azurmendi (No. 49) also ranked.
In Asia, which collectively claimed eight slots in the top 50, Japan is the place to be, with Tokyo hosting three listed restaurants—Den (No.11), Narisawa (No.19), and Floriège (No.39).
Proving that you don’t need an 18-course tasting menu to woo 50 Best voters, Singapore’s Burnt Ends debuted on the list this year at No. 34. The fan-favorite high-end barbecue joint is as beloved for its smokehouse style as its block parties.
Hong Kong’s The Chairman jumped 31 places to capture the No. 10 spot and the Highest Climber Award, though the winner of Asia’s Best Restaurant 2021 was leapfrogged on this list by Singapore’s Odette, which at No. 8 was the highest ranked in this region. Shout out to twin brothers Mathias and Thomas whose modern-German eponymous Sühring was Bangkok’s sole awardee at No. 40.
Courtesy of Room4Dessert (2)
Sweets might not be the first things that come to mind when thinking of Ubud, the wellness capital of Bali, but people make pilgrimages for the desserts-and-drinks tasting menus at Room4Dessert, where they’ve planted a permaculture garden and are all about sustainable and locavore indulgences. Little wonder innovative chef-owner Will Goldfarb was crowned the World’s Best Pastry Chef.
There were eight new entries for 2021, including Italy’s Lido 84, which debuted at No. 15 and claimed the Highest New Entry title.
In Vienna, Austria, Steinrerck rose five spots to nab this year’s No.12 ranking and the Art of Hospitality Award, while Boragó, in Santiago, Chile, dropped to No. 38 but won the Sustainable Restaurant Award. Non-ranker Ikoyi in London was handed the One to Watch Award, so it’s a good bet you’ll see a number next to their name in the future.
Women fared particularly well in this year’s awards, with two individual honors going to notable female chefs. In honor of her two decades in hospitality and dedicated activism, the Icon Award was given to Dominique Crenn. Her San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn placed 28th on this year’s list.
Peru’s Pía León received the World’s Best Female Chef award thanks to her handling of indigenous ingredients at her restaurant, Kjolle, but it was Lima’s Central—which León manages with husband Virgilio Martínez—that made the list at No. 4.
Spreading the Love
Champions of Change was a new World’s 50 Best category for 2021, created to honor community-minded chefs who turn the pandemic into a push for positive action. In Bangkok, Deepanker Khosla turned his restaurant, Haoma, into a high-end, high-nutrition soup kitchen to keep his staff employed and serve more than 100,000 meals to those who’d lost their jobs. Kurt Evans uses food to fight recidivism and, during the pandemic, he created Everybody Eats Philly to combat food insecurity in Philadelphia. A champion of inclusivity, Viviana Varese uses her Italian eateries, Viva and W Villadorata Country Restaurant, to push for equality for all.
The 50 Best portfolio got more inclusive another way this year, creating the Asia’s 50 Best Essence of Asia listing, to shine the spotlight on diverse restaurants around the region that don’t usually get international recognition.
And finally, in the lead-up to Antwerp, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 released an extended list that featured 13 Asian restaurants within the ranks of 51 to 100 globally. Once again, Japan led the way with five restaurants, including two new additions from Tokyo. Bangkok and Hong Kong contributed three eateries each, while Seoul and New Delhi placed one each.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021
11. Den (Tokyo, Japan)
12. Steirereck (Vienna, Austria)
13. Don Julio (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
14. Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain)
15. Lido 84 (Gardone Riviera, Italy)
16. Elkano (Getaria, Spain)
17. A Casa do Porco (São Paulo, Brazil)
18. Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)
19. Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
20. Diverxo (Madrid, Spain)
21. Hiša Franko (Kobarid, Slovenia)
22. Cosme (New York, USA)
23. Arpège (Paris, France)
24. Septime (Paris, France)
25. White Rabbit (Moscow, Russia)
26. Le Calandre (Rubano, Italy)
27. Quintonil (Mexico City, Meixco)
28. Benu (San Francisco, USA)
29. Reale (Castel de Sangro, Italy)
30. Twins Garden (Moscow, Russia)
31. Restaurant Tim Raue (Berlin, Germany)
32. The Clove Club (London, UK)
33. Lyle’s (London, UK)
34. Burnt Ends (Singapore)
35. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai, China)
36. Hof Van Cleve (Kruishoutem, Belgium)
37. SingleThread (Healdsburg, USA)
38. Boragó (Santiago, Chile)
39. Floriège (Tokyo, Japan)
40. Sühring (Bangkok, Thailand)
41. Alléno Paris au Pavillion Ledoyen (Paris, France)
42. Belcanto (Lisbon, Portugal)
43. Atomix (New York, USA)
44. Le Bernardin (New York, USA)
45. Nobelhart & Schmutzig (Berlin, Germany)
46. Leo, Bogotá (Colombia)
47. Maaemo (Oslo, Norway)
48. Atelier Crenn (San Francisco, USA)
49. Azurmendi (Larrabetzu, Spain)
50. Wolfgat (Paternoster, South Africa)
Sourced by 50 Best (William Reed Business Media)