Archives for posts with tag: The Ledbury

The new list of the top 50 restaurants in the world was released yesterday and really there were no surprises.

Organised by Restaurant magazine and judged by 800 industry specialists, this list is not only the most anticipated, but the most lucrative of lists to head up as a restaurant. For many years El Bulli topped the bill and now Noma has taken over as the one to beat.

Whilst I haven’t been to many on there, I am told that getting on this list makes a big difference to the bookings. Once you have made it here you are guaranteed full tables and thus commercial success for your restaurant. So I always try and see who it is that makes the list and what I can conclude about the restaurant world as a result.

Obviously I look at the UK first and was delighted to see Heston’s Dinner charge into 9th spot as the highest new entry, with the Fat Duck falling back out of the top ten to number 13 (lucky for some!). There is no doubt that the Fat Duck experience is one that I shall remember for a long time but the truth is that the Dinner meal was much easier to relish. The food was outstanding and yes, you absolutely have to have the Meat Fruit, but I suggest you half and half with someone having the Rice & Flesh.

Meat Fruit: stunning

I am also kicking myself for not forcing my friends to join me at The Ledbury before it achieved the highest climber award rising 20 spots to number 14. Now it will be impossible to get a table. Ever since the team fought off the onslaught of unruly rebels during the London riots, I have had a desire to support the Ledbury lot.

In terms of other observations much is the same as last year with USA, France and Spain dominating. The US now boast eight restaurants in the top 50 just beating the French who have 7, although it must be said that France do not have any listed in the top 10. The contenders to the US for top ten position goes to Spain and that is no surprise to me. This is my top choice for places to eat and I was especially glad to see Elena Arzak awarded world’s best female chef after her Dad got the lifetime achievement award in 2011. Incidentally this went to Thomas Keller this year. His record speaks for itself.

Other observations are the continued presence of the South American countries with Brazil, Mexico and Peru in the top 50 along with a spotlight on Peru for the Regional spotlight article. On the other hand Finland, South Africa and Russia all fell out of the top 50. I am particularly sad about South Africa as a big supporter of theirs, although I was pleased for The Test Kitchen which came in at number 74 and is fully deserved (see my earlier blog for more details).

A drizzly day couldn't dampen our spirits at Stone Barns farm

It is incredible what these Blue Hill guys are doing with the good old vegetable.

I also want to make special mention of Blue Hill at Stone Barns which is at number 77. We went there at the end of last year and it was possibly the best meal I have ever had. I think it was the overall experience that makes me say that. Robert the concierge was our charming host touring us through the drizzle around the farm for a couple of hours. We were mesmerised by the whole operation. Nothing was left to chance with vegetable varieties being developed with amazing integrity and passion. I have never before been taken through the ins and outs of the composting system or indeed the charcoal process before a meal but having done that, we really appreciated the whole meal on a much broader level. Never has a raw vegetable tasted so good and never has a table been so well served.

Course one of 27 having chosen the 12 course menu! Never has a carrot tasted so good

The top restaurant list is indeed fascinating and a chance to fantasise about where I might like to eat this year. But the truth is that this sort of food is such a special treat that it is a rare thing for me to be able to indulge in. I still desire a trip to Spain and the Asador Etxebarri food. Maybe this year I can pull it off.

In the meantime, let me know what you think and where you want to go. I am always up for a great meal.

I couldn’t believe my ears whilst watching Saturday Kitchen this weekend. It all started very innocently with Alexis Gauthier, French chef extraordinaire, making a chicken wing dish and talking about his London restaurant. The debate moved onto France and how narrow the food choices are with Alexis claiming he only discovered new varieties of cuisine once he had crossed the Channel. The French, he said, are “a bit too French sometimes”. He went on to say that he found the UK and specifically London food scene more progressive than France. Interesting.

Then yesterday there was an article on chocolatier Paul A Young timed perfectly for the Easter weekend. In it, the Australian head chocolatier Michael Lowe said he moved from Australia to work in the chocolate industry over here because “Brits are more open to ideas”.

So what is it about the British and is this all true?

I thought Jamie Oliver showcased the unique position we Brits have in his Great Britain series where he played homage to the multicultural influences that pervade our country. There is no doubt that the heritage of our  British Empire alongside an openness to welcome in people from all over the world has led to local communities making wonderful authentic food and we saw many examples on that show.

Marry that authenticity up with the passion that drives food industry experts and out pops some really great cooking in restaurants, markets, shops and more all across the UK. But that is not enough to make us the most progressive food scene. And indeed, if you look at the top 50 restaurants of the world as voted in Restaurant Magazine by over 800 international experts, the UK comes 5th in the stats with 4 restaurants listed, as opposed to France at 8, Italy & USA at 6 and Spain at 5.

Maybe the clues come from the actual restaurants listed. In fifth place is the Fat Duck which fell two places in 2011. I guess we all know about Heston and his style. He is a food geek which is not only demonstrated by his choice of glasses. Geek-i-ness is a must have trait for someone doing superlative food. But I also see quirkiness and that feels like a British thing to me. How else do you explain Boris Johnson and his Wiff Waff escapade? Look it up!

'Mock Turtle Soup' awaiting the soup element which came via a gold tea bag of flavour

The Sound of the Sea

There is no doubting the genius of dishes like Sound of the Sea and Mock Turtle Soup which we have all seen on those TV shows, but for me there were other dishes that really endeared me to Heston’s Britishness, creativity and skill. The Whisk(e)y gums were a celebration of a great UK product and the sweet shop takes us all back to a bygone era of our childhood which many are trying to reproduce in new outlets opening today.

Whiskey Gums

The Sweet Shop

The other top 50 restaurant that has stood the test of time is St John and Fergus Henderson really does encapsulate that eccentric British character. Nose to tail cooking may not be your thing but it certainly celebrates the British farming industry in all its glory. And we shouldn’t knock his “buttock-like buns” either.

Ironically, the other two restaurants in the top 50 are The Ledbury and Hibiscus, with an Australian chef and French chef respectively. Well – clearly they came here to explore their ideas in a more conducive environment.

So there you have it. A combination of international influences, multiculturalism, eccentricity and quirkiness which all add up to a unique and wonderful place to explore food. Now where shall I go for dinner?