World's 50 Best Restaurants awards 2016: Attica down one spot

Pears and Maidenii from Ripponlea fine diner, Attica
Pears and Maidenii from Ripponlea fine diner, Attica  Photo: Supplied

It's been a bittersweet year for Australia at the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards, with two major players slipping down the list, and Melbourne being crowned as host city for 2017 - the second city, after New York, to ever host the awards outside London.

Osteria Francescana, in Italy's Modena, won number one position, accepted by an emotional Massimo Bottura. El Celler de Can Roca, in Spain, dropped from 1st to 2nd position, New York's Eleven Madison Park came in 3rd, followed by Peru's Central. Copenhagen's Noma, which spent the first half of 2016 in Sydney, slid from 3rd position in 2015 to 5th.

Neil Perry with Ben Shewry (centre) and Dan Hunter (right) at this year's World's 50 Best 'Chef's Feast' event in New York.
Neil Perry with Ben Shewry (centre) and Dan Hunter (right) at this year's World's 50 Best 'Chef's Feast' event in New York. Photo: World's 50 Best Restaurants

Attica won best restaurant in Australasia, but slipped down one place from 32nd to 33rd position, while Australian David Thompson's Nahm, in Bangkok, placed 37th, down from 22nd in 2015. Newcastle export Brett Graham's London restaurant The Ledbury rose from 20th position to 14th. Chef Isaac McHale, who is an alumni from Sydney's Marque restaurant, had the highest new entry with The Clove Club in London coming in at 26.

Restaurants ranking 51-100 were announced last week, with Victoria's Brae jumping an impressive 22 positions from 87th to 65th position. Sydney's Quay slid from 58th to 98th.

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Good Food - unique dining - Attica - Pears and Maidenii.jpg

Pears and Maidenii at Attica, Victoria.

Sydney's Sepia, which clicked in at 84th position last year and also scooped the coveted 'One to Watch' award, failed to make this year's top 100 list. Sepia chef and owner Martin Benn spoke to some of the issues facing top chefs in an interview with Fairfax Media earlier this year.

Sepia co-owners Martin Benn and Vicki Wild said that they felt the omission came down to the tyranny of distance, and that not enough of the voters visited Sydney before the voting deadline. 

"We were devastated, to be honest, and were really disappointed because we feel like we're in a better place now than where we were two years ago. Clearly, everyone that was voting went to Melbourne but not Sydney," Wild said. 

"Martin is an English-born, French-trained, Australian-chef embracing Asian ingredients, that's something to celebrate - that's what Australia is."

"We haven't come this far to just come this far," Benn said. "We're determined to make Sydney proud and put it back on the map."

Vicki Wild and partner, Martin Benn who run Sepia restaurant in Sydney. 26th April 2013
Photo Dallas Kilponen

Vicki Wild and partner, Martin Benn at Sepia, Sydney. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The list's editor William Drew controversially described Melbourne as "Australia's food capital", which was reflected by Victoria's dominance over the Australian-contigency of the awards.

Award-winning chef Ben Shewry took full ownership of Attica last year.
Award-winning chef Ben Shewry took full ownership of Attica last year. Photo: Pat Scala

Brae's impressive 22 position climb reflects 12 months of hard work for the Victorian team, according to operations manager and partner of chef Dan Hunter, Julianne Bagnato.

"We're relieved and excited," Bagnato said. "You don't expect to move up; you hope to stay where you are and if you are lucky you move up.

"It's a great time to be a regional restaurant. Food is becoming so much more culturally significant in Australia and people are designing their holidays around it."

The best-of-the-best crowded into Cipriani Wall St, in Manhattan, for the prestigious awards ceremony, attended by more than 800 chefs, restaurateurs and members of the global food media.

This is the first year that the awards have left London, which has acted as host city for the past 14 years. It's the beginning of the awards' "global tour" of host cities, beginning with New York City this year, and heading on to Melbourne for 2017. Not all of the London touches were removed, with British-expat April Bloomfield catering the ceremony and UK television presenter Mark Durden-Smith acting as master of ceremonies.

The ceremony kicked off with a food-porn-heavy video spruiking Australia as one of the world's greatest food destinations, with Rene Redzepi and Heston Blumenthal, along with Peter Gilmore, Neil Perry and Ben Shewry waxing lyrical about the country's bounty. Those at this year's awards will be treated to an Aussie barbecue brunch, manned by Neil Perry, Dan Hunter, Peter Gilmore and Ben Shewry, planned to help ease the hangovers tomorrow morning.

The list is determined by an independent "academy" of 1000 members around the world, who are allowed seven votes each, which are overseen and calculated by 27 academy chairs and audited by Deloitte.

This year's 'One to Watch' was awarded to Toyko's Den, which made it's debut at 77th place. Dominique Crenn, who runs San Francisco's Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn, was awarded the World's Best Female chef. French chef Alain Passard received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement award.

Last year the first, second and third positions were taken by Spain's El Celler De Can Roca, Modena's Osteria Francescana and Copenhagen-via-Sydney's Noma respectively.

Noma chef Rene Redzepi

Rene Redzepi at Noma, Sydney. Photo: Supplied.

The awards are still underway in New York. Watch the live stream here.