(CNN) — The gentle clink of glasses, the low hum of conversation, the soft lights, and appetite-whetting scents. All were sadly missed when restaurants Worldwide were forced to shut their doors in 2020 and 2021, the ovens cold and the owners and workers facing an uncertain future.
A new rule introduced at the 2019 awards rendered previous winners of the top title ineligible for the list, but Noma could make the cut as it closed in 2016 then reopened in a new Copenhagen location two years later.
This fundamental change in the rules excludes New York’s Eleven Madison Park, The Fat Duck near London, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, and the 2019 winner, Mirazur in Menton, France. These restaurants are now entered into a separate “Best of the Best” program, of which Noma is the newest member. Noma might well be the most famous restaurant in the World.
The fight for survival
Taking to the stage at the Flanders Meeting and Convention Center in Antwerp, Belgium, Redzepi recalled the life-changing experience of first winning the award 11 years ago: “In the wake of this victory, all dreams were seemingly open. It also gave us a chance to be a part — one part — of a transformation of an entire region’s food culture.”
He also reflected on the tough times faced by the industry. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how fragile our dreams can be, how incredibly grueling and difficult this industry can be,” he said.
“I want to recognize all the restaurants and industry people who have fought for survival. It feels a little weird to be standing on this stage knowing there are so many people still fighting.”
Ending on a hopeful note, he said of the Noma team, “We spent the last year and a half-dreaming of something. We’re going to go build it now.”
Live well in Lima
Diners who can’t get a table at Noma can always try its Copenhagen neighbor Geranium, in second place, where head chef Rasmus Kofoed serves an adventurous seasonal menu that speaks to his love of sea-foraging. Ingredients on offer include squid, melted smoked lard, and essence of yeast. Rasmus Kofoed’s Copenhagen restaurant Geranium placed second on the 2021 list.
Claes Bech Poulsen/Geranium
Elsewhere in western Europe, Spain’s showing this year was also solid. Larrabetzu’s Asador Etxebarri — where all dishes, even dessert, are flame-grilled — held onto third place. At the same time, chef Victor Arguinzoniz was voted by his peers as the Chefs’ Choice Award winner. Barcelona’s Disfrutar rose to No. 5, San Sebastian’s Mugaritz slipped to No.14, while Madrid’s DiverXO made it to No. 20.
The Peruvian capital of Lima had two restaurants in the top 10: chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León’s Central, which climbed two spots to fourth place, and Maido at No.7, whose deal is Japanese-Peruvian fusion, with a highlight being the lucuma ice cream, topped with soy sauce and mambo foam.
Despite Lima’s lauded restaurants and other spots from Mexico City to Singapore making the top 10, no restaurant outside Europe or North America has ever won the World’s 50 Best prizes.