It seems puerile to state that any restaurant is the best in the world - it is sort of like the school yard argument of who would win a fight between Batman and Spiderman. Just as it is hard to compare two super heroes with different super powers, it is just as hard to compare great restaurants with different styles, different approaches, cooking different ingredients in different regions around the world. It is very subjective and it must be impossible to correlate opinions from judges in regions around the globe with any parity and come up with an accurate and fair top 50 list.
Some of the results would raise an eyebrow too - it is hard for us to imagine there are forty-six better restaurants in the world than The Fat Duck - a restaurant that was top in 2005 and Heston Blumenthal says is better now. Our recent meal there was amazing and we would put it ahead of a restaurant like The Ledbury, good as it is, which is now in 10th place. But the menu in The Fat Duck rarely changes and that may be why it is not higher up the list which seems to award restaurants who are constantly looking to innovate. Some may be surprised that Simon Rogan's L'Enclume has never graced the top 50 since it is the only other restaurant besides The Fat Duck to get 10 out of 10 in the UK Good Food Guide. We haven't eaten Rogan's food yet so cannot comment.
I'm sure most of the world's top chefs attending the awards in London would know that it isn't really possible to title any restaurant the best in the world. But they probably feel the ceremony is reward for all the work that they have put in. Not to mention the reservations that comes with the publicity.
Despite the silliness, there is a lot to applaud about the World's Best 50 list. Most importantly is that it rewards the industry's truly great chefs, the innovators of the culinary industry, the chefs that stand out from the crowd.
Rene Redzepi, chef patron of the 2014 best restaurant Noma, is one such innovator. There aren't many chefs in history who have revolutionised the food industry; the way chefs think about food, the way chefs cook food and the way chefs present food.
Over the years there has been Escoffier (the founding-father of modern French food), Paul Bocuse (the 'Nouvelle Cuisine' movement) Pierre Gagniare (fusion cuisine), Ferran Adria (molecular gastronomy) to name a few.
Most recently there is Redzepi. His approach is to look at the local environment for inspiration. He takes the terrior of his region and presents it an innovative way. The foraged foods on so many menus around the world can be traced back to his influence. But he doesn't just take ingredients from his doorstep and substitute them in classical dishes or add them in some de-constructed concoction of some well known recipe. Instead he prepares them in a new way using modern techniques but still trying to present them in as clean and as pure a form as possible.
What has this got to the World's Best 50 List, since he was doing this before he got the award? Being garnished the title of best restaurant rewarded Redzepi for his innovation and for the courage to take the risk of trying something completely new, something that was probably more likely to fail than to succeed and that by itself must surely be a positive for the list. But there is more. Noma may not even be in business now if it wasn't for the publicity that came with winning this title. It guaranteed them a full restaurant for lunch and dinner every day, giving them some financial stability to keep pushing their innovation to see how far they can take it.
It helped spread the influence of Redzepi's approach and now chefs the world over are looking closer to home for their produce and considering seasonality more than ever. There is also the effect it has had on the Nordic region. We were in Copenhagen recently and the plethora of excellent restaurants is remarkable.
The next Redzepi could come from anywhere and will bring another fresh outlook and new approach to cookery. The World's 50 Best Restaurants list may help this person be uncovered, spread their name and influence to chefs and food enthusiasts around the world. Could it even be Ireland? Only once has Ireland had a restaurant in the list, Thorntons at number 25 in 2003. None of the current stock are good enough to make the list sadly. But, ten years ago, not many people would have thought the next best restaurant was going to come out of Denmark, a country not known for its fine food culture, so you never know.
The top of the list contains many restaurants that are doing something different, that are innovative, that are setting trends and that stand out from the crowd. It must be a good thing that these restaurants are given the recognition they deserve.