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Attica honoured as Australia's top restaurant

Ben Shewry's Melbourne restaurant drops from 21st to 32nd spot in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2014, but Australian chefs still make their mark on the global dining scene.

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Melbourne's Attica restaurant has once again been recognised as the best restaurant in the country – and 32nd in the world.

More than 900 industry experts chose head chef Ben Shewry's earthy flavours, foraged ingredients and “sophisticated and deeply grounded” menu as Australia's only restaurant worthy of a placement on the World's 50 Best restaurants list this year. No Sydney restaurants made the top 50. Quay, headed by chef Peter Gilmore, dropped from 48th to the No. 60 position.

Ben Shewry at Attica. His Melbourne restaurant was the highest Australian entrant on this year's list. Click for more photos

World's 50 Best: the 2014 results

Ben Shewry at Attica. His Melbourne restaurant was the highest Australian entrant on this year's list. Photo: Eddie Jim

  • Ben Shewry at Attica. His Melbourne restaurant was the highest Australian entrant on this year's list.
  • Ranked No. 32, but Australia's only top 50 entrant ... Ben Shewry in the kitchen garden at Attica.
  • Attica in Melbourne's Ripponlea.
  • King George whiting wrapped in paperbark at Attica.
  • Peter Gilmore's Quay dropped out of the top 50 to be ranked 60th on the list.
  • Signature dish ... the Guava snow egg from Quay.
  • (From L to R) Heston Blumenthal and Brett Graham during a visit to Australia last year. Aussie expat Graham ranked tenth for his London restaurant The Ledbury. Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, which will relocate to Melbourne next year, was ranked No. 47. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was fifth on the list.
  • Sydney chef Tetsuya Wakuda's Singapore restaurant Waku Ghin ranked No. 50.
  • At the awards ... Aussie expat chefs Brett Graham and David Thompson. Thompson's Nahm in Bangkok was ranked No. 13.
  • David Thompson's Nahm in Bangkok. It was named Asia's best restaurant and ranked No. 13 on the list.
  • Back at No. 1 ... Noma's Rene Redzepi onstage to accept the award for S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant & The Best Restaurant in Europe, sponsored by Acqua Panna.
  • Noma's Rene Redzepi in Melbourne last year.
  • A dish at Denmark's Noma.

David Chang's Sydney restaurant Momofuku Seiobo dropped off the list (which actually ranks the top 100 restaurants and is organised by British magazine Restaurant) after finishing 89th last year. However two of Chang's New York restaurants remain in 2014's top 100.

Noma from Copenhagen was voted best in the world, reclaiming the top spot from Spain's El Celler de Can Roca which this year ranked No. 2. In third position for the second-year running was Italy's Osteria Francescana.

Australian chefs working overseas also made their mark on this year's list.

Sydney's Quay restaurant dropped out of the top 50 to be ranked No. 60.
Sydney's Quay restaurant dropped out of the top 50 to be ranked No. 60. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Newcastle's Brett Graham broke into the top 10 in the world for the first time with his fresh, instinctive work at The Ledbury in London – up to tenth spot from No. 13 last year. Speaking after the awards Graham expressed his excitement.

"It’s a huge surprise being there in the top 10... We’ve got a great young team, actually half full of bloody Australians as well, from all over the country. My sous-chef Greg who’s from Foster does a wonderful job and he’s been a big part of this as well."

Graham admitted success brought a downside.

Attica's Ben Shewry arrives at London's Guildhall for the 2014 World's 50 Best Restaurants awards.
Attica's Ben Shewry arrives at London's Guildhall for the 2014 World's 50 Best Restaurants awards. Photo: Nick Miller

"You’re always a bit nervous about how you do and how high your ratings are. These are huge expectations to live up to. Nothing’s changed from yesterday to tomorrow, it’s going to carry on, but now everyone expects it to be one of the top 10 restaurants in the world and that’s a huge pair of shoes to fill." 

David Thompson came in at No. 13 with Nahm in Bangkok, also voted the best restaurant in Asia. Thompson's Thai journey began in Sydney with Darley Street Thai in 1991. He opened Nahm in Bangkok (he also had a Nahm in London) four years ago to pit his creations against the locals.

Nahm, which features bare wooden tables and raw brick pillars, has a menu drawn from ancient Thai cookbooks featuring delicacies such as smoked fish, fiery minced prawn and salted duck egg.

Thompson said chefs in Australia faced an uphill battle. "One of the difficult things for Australian restaurants is that it’s so distant, so far away from the circuit of judges.

"Almost all the guys know it’s a matter of luck in the awards ceremony. Where’s Quay? Where’s Dan Hunter [of Brae]? Where are all those other guys that do some pretty fantastic stuff that is on par with the guys who have won the major awards tonight?" he said.

But Thompson said he'd had his own difficulties in Bangkok with political unrest making restaurant business tricky. "It’s going not bad despite the protests which really played havoc with most businesses in Bangkok. We’ve been going okay, we’ve been very lucky indeed.

"Our customer base is a mixture of tourists and locals. The locals are inured to the occasional protest and skirmish. The Thais are pretty good natured when it comes to their rebellions and revolutions. Do you know what? They’re gentlemen because they break for lunch."

Sydney chef Tetsuya Wakuda's Singapore restaurant Waku Ghin scraped in at No. 50 up from 68th spot last year.

Ripponlea restaurant Attica, led by New Zealand-born chef Ben Shewry, was awarded "Australiasia's best restaurant" at the 2014 World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna and organised by Restaurant magazine, despite dropping 11 places from its 21st spot last year.

Shewry and Attica co-owner David Maccora accepted their award overnight in London's Guildhall. Speaking just before the event, Shewry said he was happy to simply be invited back to London, meaning Attica was again in the top 50.

"There are many fantastic restaurants worthy of making it into the top 50. To me, whether it's 50 or 21, it's great," he said.

"It's a huge honour so it's worth making the journey here for that, and it's an opportunity to catch up with friends in the industry. You get to hang out and do lunch in the days before (the awards), it's a pretty rare opportunity."

Heston Blumenthal's ground-breaking Bray restaurant The Fat Duck - which relocates to Melbourne next year - slipped to 47th spot (from No. 33 in 2013). The Fat Duck will open at Crown for six months next year, before the space becomes a permanent Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, modelled on the original in London. Dinner finished in 5th spot at this year's awards.

A clearly surprised Rene Redzepi of Noma - ranked number one in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before last year's slip - took to the Guildhall stage with many of his staff and indicated the team felt relieved just to have remained within earshot. "When it got to number 20, we were like 'We're still in the top 20!'"

Redzepi thanked his colleagues. "The combined efforts of all of us made the difference. In the past years there has been countless moments of craziness... blisters and sores. I know I'm not always the easiest person to be around...

"But I want to tell you in front of everyone you guys... are my team and my inspiration. Your patience and dedication that you give year in, year out is more than I could ever hope for in my wildest dreams."

He added, "We're not at the finish line yet".

Those wishing to eat at the world's best restaurant may have to book tickets to Japan rather than Denmark however, with Redzepi announcing via Twitter earlier this year that the entire Noma staff would temporarily relocate to Tokyo at the beginning of 2015 for two months.

Redzepi said he suspected the win would help bookings for his Tokyo venture. "I have been planning this for two years. I wanted to go there. They still wanted us when we were a mere number two. This [win] is not going to change anything."

The most difficult thing at the moment was arranging visas for his multi-national team, including the dishwashers, Redzepi said. The relocation would invigorate the whole Noma team, giving them a chance to work with new ingredients, he said. "We are doing this as a life experience to us all. It's also a crazy thing."

He said he did not expect to win, as although he had a successful year he had lost a lot of sous-chefs. "It's just such a surprise. I talked to my wife, we are like it is the biggest surprise we've ever had."