Last week saw one of the most important events in the restaurant world, arguably as keenly observed among aficionados of top-end dining as the annual announcement of the Michelin stars.  

Chefs all around the globe were agog to find out which establishments would be included on this year’s ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list.

Voted for by around 1,000 ‘international restaurant industry experts’, the ‘World’s Best’ list is not free of controversy, nor does everyone agree with its findings.  But it does give some interesting pointers as to which parts of the world are the ones to watch if you’re interested in eating at the finest tables.

The Spanish have taken the top spot this year, with Disfrutar in Barcelona taking the coveted number one title.  

Run by three former chefs at one-time winner El Bulli (which I was lucky enough to eat at just before it closed – and it was very much worthy of the accolade), the judges declared that its combination of ‘brilliantly imaginative dishes, unsurpassed technical mastery and playful presentation results in the dining experience of a lifetime, as full of surprises as it is memories’.

Disfrutar joins past winners which include such luminaries as Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, Noma in Copenhagen and Eleven Madison Park in New York.  

Restaurants which have occupied the top spot are not eligible to appear on the list again, opening the way for someone else to take the crown next year.  Just two UK restaurants make the cut this year, both of them in London.

Many people will view the ‘World’s Best Restaurants’ list with bemusement.  Choosing the best restaurant in the world is completely subjective: one person might like white-linen formality, another might have a much better experience in a more relaxed, informal environment.  

Can we really judge that a Korean restaurant in Seoul is better or worse than a restaurant showcasing traditional Peruvian food in Lima?

A particularly relevant question that will be on many people’s lips is: who cares?  For most, these are establishments whose locations and sky-high prices render them completely inaccessible. Why should we take any notice of what goes on in these rarefied kitchens?

The answer is that what happens in these vanguard restaurants will eventually influence what we eat in more day-to-day places here in Norfolk. It’s a trickle-down process; just as innovations in Formula One cars eventually make it into the vehicles we drive (anti-lock braking, for example), then what happens at the world’s top eateries does influence what appears on many of our plates.

When I ate at El Bulli, there were dozens of chefs from other restaurants spending time in the kitchen there, doing what is called a stage – a kind of work placement, from which they take new ideas back to their own restaurants.  Heston Blumenthal spent time at El Bulli honing his skills before opening The Fat Duck.

Many of our best Norfolk chefs have spent time doing exactly this, perhaps not in Top 50 restaurant kitchens, but certainly working alongside chefs who have done exactly that.  

And many of the innovations, new ideas, ground-breaking techniques and superb food that we enjoy in our county’s top establishments can be shown to have at least been inspired by what goes on in the world’s best restaurant kitchens.

We can but dream that one day a Norfolk restaurant will feature on the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurant’ list.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter if that never happens; but for anyone interested in food, the list is certainly relevant, even if you will never actually eat in any of the hallowed restaurants featured.

Special Norfolk wine dinner
In my last column I wrote about the resurgence of Norfolk wine, so I am delighted to announce that I have been asked to present a complete flight of wines made in the county as part of The Britons Arms’ Norwich Wine Week Dinner on Friday, June 21.

Chef Richard Ellis has created an amazing eight course fish menu, and I have chosen six Norfolk wines from four different vineyards to accompany it.  I will be there to introduce the wines at the dinner, and tell the stories behind them.

There are just a few tables left if you want to join me – it would be really nice to meet some of those who have read this column (and interacted with it) over the years.

More details at