Wed, Apr 28, 2010 - Page 14 News List

How Noma ended El Bulli’s reign

By Jay Rayner  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

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And so the logjam is finally broken: El Bulli has lost the top spot it held in the San Pellegrino world’s 50 best restaurants list for four years, to Noma, Rene Redzepi’s avowedly Nordic restaurant in Copenhagen.

Is that the right result? Allowing for the fact that I think the rankings are far less interesting than the list itself, I would say yes. Redzepi, the 32-year-old chef at Noma, pursues a regional, seasonal agenda that is right on the cutting edge: If it isn’t available in the Nordic region, he won’t cook with it. The result is an idiosyncratic style of food that speaks to concerns about the way a global food culture turns our eating experiences a uniform beige.

But it goes much further than the agenda: Redzepi is a gifted cook with an extraordinary palate who does amazing things with wild herbs and flowers, bitter green leaves and the freshest local seafood.

In some quarters, of course, the decision will be read as a slap in the face for the modernists, especially for El Bulli and the Fat Duck.

Heston Blumenthal, chef and owner of the Fat Duck, responds — quite reasonably, I think — that if his or Ferran Adria’s restaurants had plummeted down the list, then that might well be a viable argument; as it is, what we are really seeing is just a little bit of jostling in the rankings.

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