Tempelhoff wins best in the world award as South America dominates World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Tempelhoff wins best in the world award as South America dominates World’s 50 Best Restaurants
‘Black Rocks’, served at Central restaurant in Lima, Peru. (Photo: Ken Motohasi)

Restaurants in Spanish-speaking countries from Spain to Peru and Mexico romped to glory in the annual S.Pellegrino/ Acqua Panna The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, presented in Valencia, Spain, this week.

Central, a restaurant in Lima, Peru, was voted the world’s best restaurant at the 2023 The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, the first ever South American eatery to earn the title of The World’s Best Restaurant. Of the top 10, six were from Spanish-language countries including three from Spain. A second Lima restaurant, Maido, was placed sixth.

Interior of Central, the best restaurant in the word according to the judges. (Photo: Gustavo Vivanco)

Cape Town’s FYN restaurant, whose owner Peter Tempelhoff attended the awards, received a special award, the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award 2023. FYN was also placed 75th in the top 100. Tempelhoff said from Valencia this week: “This award is huge for FYN, it’s also unexpected and I feel a little unprepared for it… but, it does lay the gauntlet down for us to continue on our current trajectory with every fibre of the restaurant’s being. To continue our work with the communities, the fishermen, the farmers,  the foragers and of course our dedicated staff who we’ve grown so close to over the past few years is the real reason why we’ve won this fantastic award, and I dedicate this to them.”

La Colombe, also in Cape Town, was placed 94th, the only other South African eatery in the top 100.

If other South African restaurateurs are licking their wounds at not making the cut, spare a thought for Australia which scored a big fat zero this year. Not everybody Down Under is very happy about that. British commentators also complained that leading restaurants outside of the capital, London, were ignored.

Central, the winning restaurant, was opened by Virgilio Martínez in 2008 in Lima with a vision to create a fine dining experience rooted in Peruvian ingredients and cooking techniques, according to the awards’ website.

Top 3 restaurants in the world

Central’s Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon. (Photo: Daniel Silva)

Central first appeared on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013 at No 50, just as its influence across Latin America was rising steadily, the website says. Ten years later, it is now the first ever South American eatery to earn the title of The World’s Best Restaurant.

Disfrutar’s ‘Sepietas con multiesférico de guisantes a la Catalana’ (‘serpents with multispherical peas’). (Photo: Francesc Guillamet)

Second on the top 50 list was Disfrutar in Barcelona, Spain. Disfrutar sprang from the ashes of El Bulli, the website explains. “Chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas launched Disfrutar with a clear identity — to create food that surprises and delights in equal measure, using modern technique and pristine ingredients that challenge traditional preconceptions of fine dining. The trio met working at Best of the Best restaurant El Bulli between 1996 and 1998 and, after the legendary restaurant shuttered in 2011, they joined forces to progress their creativity and push boundaries in food.”

Diverxo interior. (Photo: Supplied)

Third was Diverxo in Madrid, where chef Dabiz Muñoz helms “the Madrid pleasure-dome that is Diverxo, where he likes to push the gastronomic boundaries as much as possible”, according to the organisers. “More than a restaurant, Diverxo is an easel for the chef’s creativity, with diners brought along for the ride of their lives. Entering The World’s 50 Best Restaurants straight to No 20 in 2021, it shot to No 4 in 2022 and now climbs one more spot, entering the top three.”

Best of the rest

Interior of Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo in the Basque region of Spain. (Photo: Supplied)

In fourth place was Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo in the Basque region of Spain. “Set in a quiet Basque village surrounded by mountains and greenery somewhere between Bilbao and San Sebastian, Asador Etxebarri is a true destination restaurant,” the organisers say. “Gastronomes travel from all over the world to experience the magic of chef Victor Arguinzoniz, who turns humble ingredients like milk and beef into unforgettable dishes with the help of a little fire.”

The planetarium dome at Alchemist. This universe is called Space. (Photo: Supplied)

Fifth was Alchemist in Copenhagen, famed for its theatricality: “Alchemist is located in Refshaleøen, a remote part of Copenhagen known for its industrial buildings and a famous former shipyard. You have to go to the very end of the stretch before you get to the two-ton-heavy bronze doors with decorations reminiscent of Narnia or Middle-Earth, which lead you into the mystical world of Alchemist. Wait for a few moments and they will automatically swing open. Let the show begin!

“Without revealing too much, you can be sure of one thing: when you enter Alchemist, be prepared for a journey unlike anything else you’ve experienced in a restaurant. The experience is divided into several ‘acts’ taking the guests through different locations, types of art and extraordinary craftsmanship along the way — it’s the realisation of head chef and mastermind Rasmus Munk’s dream of a holistic dining experience.”

Maido in Lima was placed sixth, bringing another gong to the Peruvian capital. “In Japanese, ‘maido’ means ‘welcome’, a greeting that the team gives to each and every diner entering this Japanese restaurant with Peruvian heart. Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura is the chef and tour guide on this trip around the two countries, where he combines Japanese techniques and Peruvian ingredients into Nikkei cuisine. Tsumura’s ancestors moved to Peru in 1889 and the chef was born in Lima, then completed a culinary arts programme in the US and finally travelled to Osaka to specialise in Japanese cuisine. He returned to Peru and opened Maido in 2009.”

Seventh was Lido 84 in Italy’s Gardone Riviera, which “quintessentially Italian food — just not as you know it. Years of research into local ingredients, old recipe books and international cooking techniques, combined with a penchant for art in all its forms and a deep passion to put the customer first, have turned Riccardo and Giancarlo Camanini’s restaurant into a masterpiece.”

Interior of New York City’s Atomix. (Photo: Supplied)

Eighth was New York’s Atomix, billed by the awards’ judges as “a restaurant in the ascendancy in every way, sailing into the top 10 of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants by rising 25 spots since last year and earning the Villa Massa Highest Climber Award 2023. What’s more, it has leapfrogged its continental rivals to be ranked The Best Restaurant in North America. All this from a 14-seat basement counter spot on the edge of Koreatown in Manhattan.”

On the menu at Quintonil: Corn chawanmushi, uchepos foam, ikura and vanilla oil. (Photo: Supplied)

In 9th position was Quintonil in Mexico City, bringing the haul of restaurants in the top 10 from Spain and South and Central America to six. The website states: “Quintonil is the setting for chef Jorge Vallejo’s boundary-pushing Mexican cuisine and his wife Alejandra Flores’ exceptional hospitality. Focused on fresh, local ingredients and traditional Mexican flavours and techniques weaved into modern preparations, it is fast becoming a classic.”

Bruno Verjus’s baby squid. (Photo: Stéphane Riss)

In earlier decades, France could comfortably expect to have a handful of the top restaurants in the world but Paris does make a showing in the top echelon with its 10th-placed Table by Bruno Verjus. Of the eatery, the organisers say: “Bruno Verjus, Table’s 63-year-old chef, doesn’t only look a little like the grinning cat from Alice in Wonderland, but also had many lives before opening his restaurant at the age of 54: medical student, entrepreneur in China, photographer, author, radio commentator, even food critic. His motto? ‘Our food choices shape our world’.

“Table (pronounced in the French way) features a long counter designed like a wave that creates private nooks, plus an open kitchen. You can follow every gesture, see every plating including the Colours of the Day (a daily changing dish of the most seasonal herbs and vegetables), and witness how Verjus gently cooks abalone or prepares lobster (just coated with temperate ghee). Every dish has a story: mostly human and always caring.” DM


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