Two South African restaurants make World’s 50 Best runners-up list

The Test Kitchen_pine needle granita with lime compressed cucumber and gin and tonic jelly

Pine-needle granita with lime-compressed cucumber and gin-and-tonic jelly at The Test Kitchen. Photo by Jan Ras.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has announced the runners-up list of restaurants in positions 51 to 100, ahead of its annual awards event on 5 April. Two South African restaurants made the list: The Test Kitchen at 63 and La Colombe at 73, up three spots from last year’s 76. (The restaurants are currently ranked number one and two on the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards Top 10.)

The new number marks a substantial drop for The Test Kitchen, which came in at number 22 last year. So what caused the drastic drop?

The light room. Photo by Jan Ras.

The light room in the newly refurbished Test Kitchen. Photo by Jan Ras.

“I am of the opinion that The Test Kitchen did not obtain a listing within the top 50 benchmark mainly due to the fact that the restaurant was closed for almost two months last year for major interior design and menu changes,” said the World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy chair for Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, Tamsin Snyman. The policy of only taking bookings one month in advance also would have made it difficult for judges to get a booking, she said. (The restaurant has since changed its policy to offer a three-month lead period.)

Furthermore, the recent changes to the restaurant sees only 40 guests being served a bespoke tasting menu, available for dinner only – meaning that a very few diners in total have access to the food.

As no other local restaurants made the top 50 list last year, it seems unlikely that there will be any African representation on the 2017 list.

Luke Dale-Roberts at the World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards in London.

Luke Dale-Roberts at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in London in 2015.

The awards, run by Restaurant Magazine, have previously come under fire for a lack of representation outside of the northern hemisphere, and have introduced separate sets of awards in Asia and Latin America to tackle the issue in those areas. A roadshow has also been introduced – this year, the awards will be celebrated in Melbourne, Australia, which should help with representation in that part of the southern hemisphere.

The academy (the panel of judges) was also expanded this year by 50%, to include 1040 voters worldwide, with each member casting 10 votes for their favourite restaurants. At least four of the 10 must be outside of the voter’s home region, which helps to calibrate the restaurants in comparison to each other, but makes it difficult for local critics who haven’t travelled in the past 18 months to serve as voters. According to Tamsin Snyman, there are 40 judges residing in the African and Indian Ocean Islands region, the majority of whom are based in South Africa.

La Colombe_Elderflower cured Norwegian salmon, citrus dressed King crab, blood orange, melon, basil seed and wood sorrel

Elderflower-cured Norwegian salmon, citrus-dressed king crab, blood orange, melon, basil seed and wood sorrel at La Colombe. Photo by Jan Ras.

Still, inclusion in the long list is no mean feat. La Colombe and The Test Kitchen share the limelight with famed restaurants like Thomas Keller’s Per Se (87) and The French Laundry (68), the much-raved-about Estela in New York (66), and Fergus Henderson’s St John in London (91).

We reckon that alone deserves some bubbles, chefs!

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