It has been over two years since the last 50 Best list was released. Usually, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony takes place every year in June, but the 2020 edition was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Now, the time has finally arrived – the 51-100 list was published today, and the new edition of San Pellegrino’s list will be released on Tuesday, October 5th, 2021. The awards will take place in person in Antwerp, in the Flanders region of Belgium, and they will also be live-streamed in a virtual event for those who can’t physically be present. We will be in attendance in Antwerp to report live from the events, but we have also made some predictions about this year’s awards. Keep reading to see who we think will be on the 2021 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
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50 Best for Recovery
It certainly hasn’t been an easy year for the restaurant industry. Restaurants all over the world have suffered through a series of lockdowns. Some restaurants turned to take-away food to make ends meet, some restaurants sadly shuttered for good. Even when open for business, restaurants have operated with a complete lack of tourists. This has been an especially tough blow in cities where food tourism is such a big reason for travel. To help support restaurants through the most challenging period of their lives, The World’s 50 Best organization pivoted away from their annual awards show and launched 50 Best for Recovery, an initiative that raised over one million dollars for restaurants in need. Now that lots of the world is vaccinated and tourism has started up again, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list will return. The goal of this year’s guide is to further support restaurants by boosting morale, lifting up hardworking chefs, and celebrating the industry – and encourage diners to get out and eat!
The 50 Best Voters
The World’s 50 voters are anonymous, they are 50% male and 50% female, and at least 25% of the voters are rotated every year in order to keep the list fresh. There are 1,000 industry experts who vote on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list every year – they are chefs and restaurateurs, food writers, and well-traveled gourmets. For more information on how the voting works, click here. Due to strict border controls and lockdowns, it was difficult for the voters to travel around the world. Votes were originally cast in January 2020 (before the pandemic), but voters were given a chance to refresh their list of top ten restaurants in March 2021. A reminder: we are NOT voters and we have no insight into which restaurants will top this year’s highly anticipated list. To read more about our role as 50 Best TasteHunters, click here.
Just like many of you, we haven’t been able to travel as much in the past year and a half as we used to. We are based in Copenhagen, so our guesses for this year’s list are primarily Scandinavian-focused. Keep reading to see our 2021 World’s 50 Best Restaurants predictions.
Predictions: The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021
In 2019, Noma entered the list as a new entry and went straight to the no. 2 position. That’s the highest new entry in history! Will they climb the ladder one rung higher and snatch the coveted first place? We certainly hope so! The Michelin Guide finally awarded Noma with three stars this year, so we hope their good luck continues (and their hard work pays off). We predict that Noma will be crowned The World’s Best Restaurant 2021.
But that’s not all – we are crossing our fingers for a Scandinavian grand slam. Restaurant Geranium was also highly ranked in the 2019 edition, and we anticipate that they will keep their place in the top five. Our current favorite restaurant in the world, Frantzén, is comfortably sitting at position no. 21 in the 2019 list. Without a doubt, there’s only one direction for Bjorn Frantzén’s beloved Stockholm establishment – up. We’re certain Frantzén will land in the top ten this year; but, honestly, we’d rank it number one.
Newcomer Alchemist opened just shortly after the last list came out, and therefore was not included. Since then, Alchemist has won two Michelin stars and wowed diners from around the world. We had hoped that Alchemist would pull a Noma and jump right into the top five, but they entered this year’s list at no. 58. It’s one of the toughest reservations to snag at the moment – maybe the voters couldn’t get a seat?
The rest of the players in the top ten aren’t likely to shift much – once you’re in the top, it’s pretty hard to drop. Asador Extebarri has been highly ranked for many years (with good reason), and the same goes for Central, Mugaritz, Arpège, Disfrutar, and Maido. These restaurants are the pillars of the 50 Best list and it’s only a matter of time before they hit the number one spot and move onto the Best of the Best list (the Hall of Fame compiled of previous winners). The one exception is Gaggan, which closed and reopened in a new venue (as Gaggan Anand Restaurant) in November 2019. This will be viewed as a brand new restaurant now in the eyes of the 50 Best voters. Due to strict lockdowns in Asia, we find it improbable that many voters could have traveled to his new restaurant in 2020. Will Gaggan squeeze his way into the top fifty? It seems unlikely to happen this year. But we’re sure the energetic Indian chef will rise to the top once again – we can’t wait to go to Bangkok and visit his new concept.
Stuck in a similar situation is Maaemo, the pride and joy of Norway. In 2019 it was ranked no. 55, so it wouldn’t have been hard for chef Esben Holmboe Bang to climb back into the top half of the list. However, since Maaemo closed its original venue in December 2019, Maaemo 2.0 will also be viewed as a completely new restaurant. Therefore, it was not eligible for the first round of voting (in January 2020), and, due to strict lockdowns in Norway, it’s unlikely that many voters were able to travel to Oslo. So, we doubt that the voting “refresh” in March 2021 could have helped them much. Since Maaemo is missing from the 51-100 list, it looks like we will have to wait until next year to see Oslo back on the world culinary map again. The restaurant’s breathtaking new venue won chef Bang and his team their three stars back this year, and we think it will be the same story with next year’s 50 Best awards. Let’s go, Norway! Update: Team Maaemo has been spotted in Antwerp – so it looks like we might have been wrong about on this one, and that they are yet again back on the top 50 list!
2020 Restaurant Closures
Sadly, many restaurants were forced to shutter in the last year and a half due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Albert Adrià’s Tickets in Barcelona closed in 2020 (hopefully only temporarily), so that restaurant will be removed from this year’s list. Blue Hill Stone Barns temporarily turned into a chef residency and pop-up restaurant – we doubt that this new format will be eligible on the 50 Best list as the chefs are not permanent, but constantly rotating. (But this week, Dan Barber announced that Blue Hill will be returning, so maybe we will see them back on the list in the future.) In 2019, we also said goodbye to chef Magnus Nilsson’s Fäviken, and in 2020 we bid farewell to Christian Puglisi’s Relæ and Kristian Baumann’s 108. The Ledbury in London closed temporarily due to the pandemic difficulties. We hope it will reopen again soon, but, since it’s not currently open, it will be omitted from the list this year.
50 and Beyond…
As is tradition, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants released the 51-100 list about a week ahead of the awards ceremony. This extended list gives us some clues about which restaurants could have jumped into the top fifty this year. Although we have yet to visit ourselves, we are hearing overwhelmingly positive feedback about DiverXo (ranked no. 75 in 2019) and SingleThread (ranked no. 71 in 2019) from our fellow food friends. We absolutely adored our meal at Lido 84 (ranked no. 78 in 2019), and would love to see this Italian gem of a restaurant climb higher on the list as well. We would not be surprised if these three soared into the top fifty restaurants – and since these culinary addresses are missing from the 51-100 list, it’s safe to assume that they did.
Similarly, we expect the modern Korean restaurant Atomix will climb from its current standing at no. 119 into the top 50. Now that chef Ruben Mosquero (formerly of minibar in Washington, D.C.) has joined chef Junghyun Park in the kitchen, we’ve heard nothing but good things. From no. 119 to top fifty – could Atomix win the “Highest Climber” in this year’s awards? Another American favorite, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, also took a solid jump from spot no. 77 to spot no. 55 this year. We hope next year to see it in the top fifty.
One of our favorite restaurants in Denmark is Kadeau – we would have loved to see chef Nicolai Nørregaard and his Bornholm boys climb from spot no. 105 into the top 100. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year. In our opinion, Alouette in Copenhagen also deserves recognition from the 50 Best voters. It’s not on the list yet, but we hope it will be soon – it’s one of our all-time top dining experiences,
Will Los Angeles ever get the culinary credit it deserves? Sadly, our favorite tasting menu restaurant in L.A., Somni, closed during the pandemic, but we’re crossing our fingers that the spaceship restaurant Vespertine has caught the eye of some voters. Chef Jordan Kahn’s culinary playground would be our first guess if any L.A. restaurants are to make it to the list, but since he didn’t make it to the 51-100 list, we aren’t holding our breath this year.
Who do you think will be in the top five this year? Let us know in a comment below.