50 best award 2012_noma team - World's_50_Best.jpgNoma was last night crowned the World’s Best Restaurant for a third year in a row at the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Awards.

The Copenhagen restaurant, known for its foraging and strict adherence to Scandinavian produce, was praised by the judges for head chef René Redzepi’s ‘meticulous attention to detail and innovative approach’. ‘Noma has changed diners’ perceptions of Nordic cuisine and created a maelstrom in the culinary world,’ awards presenter Mark Durden-Smith told the audience. ‘It’s a restaurant of extraordinary pedigree, where passion and honesty are reflected in every mouthful.’

Unlike in 2011, this year the winners did not don plastic Viking hats to claim their prize – although the whole brigade (pictured, top right) took to the stage once again, with one of the team, introducing himself simply as Ali, accepting the gong on behalf of everybody. ‘I am so, so happy,’ he told the crowd. ‘We are a group, and I’d like to say thank you from all of us – from myself, from René, from everybody.’

This year, UK restaurants enjoyed less of a presence on the list, with only three restaurants making the top 50 – although all ranked well within the top 15. Unusually, none made it into the top five: Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck (a previous number one) slipped eight places to number 13 – a controversial decision by the panel.

However, the other two UK representatives made a positive impact: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, in Knightsbridge, was the highest new entry of the night, jumping straight into the top 10 at number nine. Meanwhile, the highest climber of 2012 was Brett Graham’s The Ledbury, which jumped from 34 to 14.

It was an evening of celebration for the USA, which pipped France to the post as the country with the biggest presence in the list, boasting eight restaurants to France’s seven. American chef Thomas Keller celebrated a triple whammy of accolades: The French Laundry re-entered the top 50 at number 43; his New York restaurant Per Se was named Best Restaurant in North America as well as moving up into sixth position (from number 10); and the man himself accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the panel.

Spain’s Arzak also did well, maintaining its position at number eight in the world and earning its co-owner Elena Arzak the title of Best Female Chef. The Chefs’ Choice award went to another Spanish restaurant, Mugaritz, which maintained its position at number three, just behind its peer, El Celler de Can Roca.

While the top three restaurants are unchanged since 2011, there was a lot of movement further down the list, with eight new entries – including Portugal, whose Vila Joya in Albufeira is the first Portuguese restaurant to break onto the world scene. The list also saw four re-entries; two from the USA. Of the 50 restaurants, only five have maintained their position since last year.

It has been a decade since Restaurant magazine launched its 50 Best awards. At the start of the ceremony, previous winners commended the influence the list has had on the restaurant industry. René Redzepi wished the awards well for the future, joking, ‘I hope you become a happy, healthy teenager – and not too rebellious’. It remains to be seen whether his restaurant will stay a world-beater for another year.

Read Square Meal’s interview with René Redzepi (published in summer 2011).

Read Square Meal’s interview with Mugaritz’s Andoni Aduriz (published 30 April 2012).

Read the full list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.

by Nicky Evans, News and Online Editor

This article was published on 1 May 2012.

© photograph courtesy of World's 50 Best Restaurants