This story was originally published on April 5, 2017, and has been updated to reflect the 2023 results
Central, the acclaimed tasting menu restaurant in Lima, landed at No. 1 on the 2023 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
At the helm are married chef-owners Virgilio Martínez and Pia León, and their tasting menu brings diners through the different altitudes and ecosystem of the Peruvian landscape. The restaurant has been a mainstay on the World’s 50 Best list and gained more global recognition following Martínez’s star turn in an episode of Netflix’s hit documentary series Chef’s Table.
The restaurant will occupy the number one position until next year. That’s because in 2019 the organization announced a rule change that after a restaurant ascends to the No. 1 spot, it becomes ineligible and is removed from the list in future years. Although the change in eligibility rules was at first billed as a diversity initiative, reporting from Lisa Abend in 2019 revealed that chefs fearing a ding to their reputations as they fell from the top spot lobbied for the change. And while Central is meaningfully different from all the prior number ones, it will still take several years before the winners group is at all representative of the entire world; after all there are still only 10 number one restaurants.
Below, a comprehensive look at all of the restaurants that the World’s 50 Best have deemed best in the world. You’ll note that nearly all of the restaurants that have been ranked first are located in Europe; those that aren’t in Europe serve European-style tasting menus; and all of the restaurants except Central are helmed exclusively by men.
Years at No. 1: 2023
Vital Intel: Chef-owners Virgilio Martínez and Pia León take diners through Peru’s various ecosystems by borrowing ingredients and inspiration for each course on Central’s menu from a different altitude. From their flagship space in Lima, they offer 12-course and 14 course menus for PEN 1045 and PEN 1250, respectively (that’s about $288 and $345, USD). Central is the first restaurant outside of Europe or the United States to take home the top honors, and the first restaurant with a woman credited as a co-chef or chef to hold the number one spot.
Years at No. 1: 2022
Vital Intel: Helmed by chef Rasmus Kofoed, Geranium is one of Denmark’s most celebrated culinary establishments, and the first restaurant in the country to earn three Michelin stars. (Yes, it beat Noma to it by several years.) From its eighth floor perch, the restaurant’s dining room overlooks the scenic Fælledparken gardens. Currently, the three-hour “Summer Universe” tasting menu clocks in at $3,950 DKK (about $580 USD). The restaurant has been meat free since 2022.
Years at No. 1: 2021, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010
Vital Intel: René Redzepi, famed for his foraging expeditions and fermenting techniques, redefined what it means to be a locavore with Noma. The restaurant’s new Nordic, hyper-local cuisine made Copenhagen a global dining destination and served as a training ground for a number of notable chefs. In 2016, Redzepi closed Noma. He opened a new Noma in Copenhagen in early 2018. That restaurant was considered eligible for the 2019 list, landing at No. 2. And after 2020 pandemic hiatus, the restaurant won the top honors on the 2021 list.
Mirazur, Menton, France
Years at No. 1: 2019
Vital Intel: Mirazur, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, isn’t known for being particularly influential, but Colagreco has been building his reputation for years. The Italian-Argentine chef honed his approach to French cuisine working along side chefs Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse. He opened Mirazur in 2006 serving a tasting menu inspired by three themes: sea, garden, and mountain. That menu, which includes dishes like anchovies with fried skeletons and lemons; oysters with tapioca, shallot cream, and pear; and salt-crusted beetroot with caviar cream, currently costs €260, or around $295 USD, per person.
Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
Years at No. 1: 2018, 2016
Vital Intel: Osteria Francescana had been hovering near the top spot before making it to no. in 2016. Massimo Bottura’s Italian restaurant was ranked second in 2015, and third the year before that. The first Italian restaurant to reach the top of the list, Osteria Francescana has a reputation for being near-impossible to get into, thanks in part to chef Bottura’s whimsical menu items, like “Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano” and “An eel swimming up the Po River.”
Eleven Madison Park, New York
Years at No. 1: 2017
Vital Intel: Daniel Humm and Will Guidara vied for the top spot on the World’s 50 Best list since their restaurant made it into the top 50 in 2010, a year before the chef and general manager purchased EMP from Danny Meyer. The restaurant, which serves a seasonal tasting menu and also has three Michelin stars and four from the New York Times, is just the second American restaurant to be named best in the world by this particular list. In 2017 the restaurant shut down for a period of months, which didn’t remove it from eligibility, but did perhaps lead to its fall three spots to no. 4 in 2018.
El Celler De Can Roca, Girona, Spain
Years at No. 1: 2015, 2013
Vital Intel: In 2013, the modernist Spanish restaurant became the second restaurant from the Girona region of Spain to make it to the top of the list. At El Celler De Can Roca, Roca brothers Joan, Josep, and Jordi serve an avant-garde tasting menu for around $300 per person. Since being named the world’s best, the brothers have been as committed to international outreach as they are to innovation, becoming Goodwill Ambassadors for the United Nations Development Program and embarking on a 2014 worldwide tour.
elBulli, Girona, Spain
Years at No. 1: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2002
Vital Intel: The first restaurant to nab the top spot, elBulli ties with Noma for most years spent at number one. The Spanish restaurant pioneered modernist, molecular gastronomy techniques, and elBulli chef Ferran Adrià trained several renowned chefs early in their careers, including José Andrés and fellow World’s 50 Best chef René Redzepi.
The Fat Duck, Bray, England
Years at No. 1: 2005
Vital Intel: At the time the Fat Duck topped the list, it was unusual to appear for just a single year. At the time, chef Heston Blumenthal’s 10-year-old restaurant was lauded for its highly innovative multi-course tasting menu, which included the now-retired snail porridge and egg and bacon ice cream. In 2017, Blumenthal was recognized by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for lifetime achievement.
The French Laundry, Yountville, CA
Years at No. 1: 2004, 2003
Vital Intel: Thomas Keller’s the French Laundry was the first American fine dining establishment to make it to the no. 1 spot on the list. The restaurant, which featured Keller’s French cooking in a picturesque Napa Valley setting, was also the first on the World’s 50 Best list to take the spot two years running. In the years since, the French Laundry remained stubbornly on list of back 50 restaurants, ranking no. 86 in 2018. It’s now, of course, off the list for good.