Naturally, we must all applaud the fact that there are now eleven British restaurants featured in Restaurant magazine’s world top 100.
However, at the risk of spoiling the mood of national celebration, I should point out that only one, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, is actually featured in the top ten, while the USA has three. That would make America, along with France, also with three, the joint world capital of fine dining. But you can bet your bottom dollar that 60% of the American public did not become overweight, nor 40% of that 60% become clinically obese, by overeating at the French Laundry, Jean Georges or the Grammercy Tavern.
I confess that I have only eaten at two of the top ten restaurants, the Restaurant Gordon Ramsay which deserves its place, and L’Arpege in Paris, which emphatically does not. Close examination of the rest will have to wait on a radical reform of the Guardian’s expense account policy.
At none of these temples of gastronomy can you expect much change out of £100, and, if you want to do the thing properly, of £300. But there¹s no point in examining places at the top end of the scale in terms of value for money of that kind.
However, my main gripe with this list (other than that it is an entirely fatuous exercise designed to drum up interest in Restaurant magazine, which it has managed to do quite successfully), is not with the list itself, but with our response to it. The fact that eleven British restaurants are deemed to have made the grade has excited a disproportionate degree of interest and a set in motion a tidal wave of self-congratulation.
Instead of which we should be absolutely furious. What, only eleven?! Why not twenty five? Do we have so little faith in our own restaurant culture? Perhaps so. We are constantly being assured that London is the world’s restaurant capital (nonsense of course, but people still claim it) and that we are in the middle of a food revolution, and that we are becoming more gastronomically discerning and sophisticated by the minute. Yet we can still only manage eleven top restaurants. AND WE FEEL PLEASED ABOUT IT.
It is as if the chronic, delinquent under-achiever at the bottom of the class had suddenly been awarded a merit mark for keeping his nails clean. We should be disgusted that there aren¹t twenty restaurants at least. In fact, on the basis of those that have made the cut, I can think of at least twenty, if not thirty, more that have just as good a claim to such eminence. But that is a comment on the tired, conservative, hackneyed, back-scratching, Buggin’s-turn, clique-ridden nature of those that have been named.
Only Gordon Ramsay, Gidleigh Park and the Merchant House actually deserve to be there on merit. I mean, was Petrus (it no longer exists in its former incarnation) really a better restaurant than Le Gavroche? Is The Ivy really better than Chez Bruce? Is St John really better than the Lindsay House and the the River Café better than the Locanda Locatelli? Does Nobu really serve better food than Nahm? And what about the Fat Duck, Hibiscus, Juniper, and Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles?
The world¹s top restaurants? Humbug. By what criteria? In whose judgement? Who says so? Not me.
· Matthew Fort is the Guardian’s food and drink editor