World's 50 Best Restaurants: 'Like the tasting menus it celebrates, it's outdated and irrelevant' 

Massimo Bottura
Italian Chef Massimo Bottura at the entrance of his restaurant Osteria Francescana Credit: AFP

Another year, another World's 50 Best Restaurants list. To counteract the inevitable sense of déjà vu caused by seeing many of the same names as last year, just in a different order, the organisers chose to stage the ceremony outside  London for the first time in its 15-year history.

 In the suitably grandiose setting of Cipriani Wall Street with its monolithic columns and 70-foot ceiling complete with Wedgwood dome, flamboyant Italian chef Massimo Batturo's Osteria Francescana in Modena was declared the best restaurant in the world.

But despite all the glitz and glamour of the attempt to reinvigorate the awards (New York is just the first port of call on a global tour; next stop Melbourne in 2017), events elsewhere have conspired to make the World's 50 Best seem out of date almost overnight.

Chef Massimo Bottura, of Osteria Francescana,  accepts the award for World's Best Restaurant Credit: Getty Images

I'm not talking about the frank interview with former chairman of the 50 Best's French academy Andrea Petrini who called the appointment of restaurant consultant Nicolas Chatenier as his successor "a stupid choice" and likened Chatenier's coterie of industry connections to a "sort of Cosa Nostra or Masonic lobby".

It's not even that the 'World's Best Female Chef' award looks increasingly like patriarchal tokenism, with no solely female-run restaurants making the top 50.

Award-winner Dominique Crenn's restaurant did not even making the extended top 100 ranking. "I hope in the next few years these awards are going to disappear. And they will. I think they will. It will be just one award for a chef," Crenn told  

It's that the list celebrates and is centred around something that is fast becoming the culinary equivalent of a CD of James Blunt's greatest hits; the tasting menu.

At the beginning of this month, chef Claude Bosi of two Michelin-starred Hibiscus posted a video on Instagram which showed him setting light to a copy of the restaurant's tasting menu.

"That's it the tasting menu only its finished we tried and didn't like it...!! back to the old  3course as well as tasting menu to give back the choice to the customer".

The mostly positive replies included a tweet from Petrini, posting under his alias @gelinaz, who said "MONSIEUR CLAUDE IS THE RÉAL NEW AVANTGARDER! F*** THE TASTING MENU!"

Influential food blogger Chris Pople of Cheese and Biscuits said "I think this is a fantastic idea. Most tasting menus are just annoying". 

A week later, Richard Turner of Michelin-starred Turners restaurant in Birmingham announced that he would be scrapping his £90, 10-course tasting menu saying: "Frankly, I think tasting menus put a lot of people off".  

"Are tasting menus the future, that's what we've got to ask ourselves," says Daniel Clifford of two Michelin-starred Midsummer House in Cambridge who currently offers an eight-course menu and eight-course vegetarian alternative only. "I love food so much but I get so pissed off with going out to eat and having a ten-course tasting menu and thinking there's only one dish that I really enjoyed."

Clifford isn't the only one to be disappointed by the extended dining format. The New York Times review of Thomas Keller's world famous Per Se restaurant (three Michelin stars and currently number 52 in the World's 50 Best rankings) broke down in excruciating detail just how bad a $750, nine-course meal can be.

Critic Pete Wells called the restaurant "grand, hermetic, self-regarding, ungenerous",  the food "random and purposeless" and described elements of the various dishes with phrases such as "dismal green pulp"; "gluey, oily liquid" and "murky and appealing as bong water."

Noted foodie Steve Plotnicki, founder of the Opinionated About Top 100  a rival list to the World's 50 Best, called the review "the end of an era". 

"I haven't been to Per Se in 8 years, he added. "I never go to those kinds of places. I don't have much patience for that style of dining, it's too precious."

World's 50 Best is a juggernaut of a restaurant awards ceremony and will no doubt continue to make waves and garner column inches for some time to come. But whether it can ever be anything more than "largely a collection of male-run tasting menu venues voted upon by judges who don’t have to pay for their meals" as so eloquently put it, remains to be seen.