Tuesday, April 27, 2010

S.Pelligrino and the World's Top 50 Restaurants

In their press release S.Pellegrino tell us that over the past nine years their awards have produced the most credible guide to the best places to eat on earth.
A restaurant’s ranking is decided purely on the votes of a large panel of well respected international judges collectively called the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. The Academy comprises of over 800 international chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and restaurant critics.

If the their assessment of the world’s top restaurants is to be believed the best restaurant in Melbourne by a long way is Attica which ranks 73 in the world! Indeed there is no other Melbourne restaurant in the top 100. Evidently Jaques Reymond, Vue de Monde, Taxi, Rockpool and the rest of the high flyers here are not all that good after all. In trying to understand how these food critics have judged restaurants it seems that there is a strong emphasis on invention at the top end. Certainly it is a key feature of Noma, the new number one, of El Bulli, now number two, which is closing for good at the end of this year and The Fat Duck which has slipped one place to number three. A few other things which distinguish the best restaurants seem to be the ability of their executive chefs to publicize themselves, their respect for fresh local ingredients and their philosophies. They are prominent at international food and wine festivals, they are frequently seen on TV and they have well publicized cookbooks. I might add it is a challenge to prepare dishes from some of them like Tetsuya’s. Tetsuya has fallen 21 places to number 38 with Quay being rated 27 – Australia’s highest. Marque, the only other Australian restaurant to get a mention, gets in at 67.

It would be only fair to tell us just what the make up is of the marking system. Is there any form to it at all or is it just how the judges happened to feel on the occasion when they ate there. Is it one person’s opinion? What is the minimum number of visits? Can a wonderful restaurant make the top rank if only eight of the judges put in a rating or does it take a bigger percentage of the 800 to get there? Furthermore at how many of the other supposedly excellent restaurants in the country did they dine? Do they start at 100 and take marks off for faults in service, décor, ambience, presentation, taste consistency, matching of ingredients and dishes, the wine list, the view, restaurant design, space and noise? Or do they have a system of marking weighted for different aspects of the dining experience or does each judge make up his/her mind by their own system. When the final marks are discussed do the strong personalities dominate or is there a secret ballot. Is there any account of potential biases?

There are only three restaurants in the whole of South America, the first at number 18, D.O.M. in Brazil, Biko, at 46 and Pujol at 72 both in Mexico. Argentina, Peru and the rest of South America and many other countries don't get a mention. Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics are no place for gourmands.

I'd like to know a lot more about the judges, their relationship to each other and the marking system before giving them the sort of credibility they give themselves.

These ratings have to be taken with more than a grain of salt.

Score: 12/20