World's best restaurants you can get a table at: The 40 second-best restaurants
There is no sushi bar on the World's 50 Best restaurants list. There's no pizzeria, either. No steakhouse. No dim sum joint. No gelateria. In fact this authoritative, recently announced choice of the 50 finest restaurants overlooks, by its nature, plenty of the truly great dining experiences that foodie traveller will journey far and wide to find.
Of course, in the most recent list, unveiled to much fanfare in Melbourne in April, there are some incredibly good restaurants to choose from. But those establishments are also incredibly expensive, and incredibly difficult to get into. And they certainly don't represent the beginning and the end of enjoyable dining experiences.
That's where Traveller comes in. What about those modest, family-run joints that ooze charm? What about the bustling hole-in-the-wall eateries with the dedicated local followings? What about the places that dedicate themselves to just one dish, the ramen restaurants and cevicherias and places that serve nothing but Peking duck?
As Adam Liaw, host of the Australian TV series Destination Flavour says, travellers shouldn't become too obsessed with ticking off 50 Best entrants. "Any such list or grouping of restaurants is only going to be as valid or flawed as the importance the viewer puts on it," he says. "There's no objective standard for what makes a great restaurant. If there were we'd just be seeing the same restaurants every time.
"There are hundreds of restaurants that regularly top Michelin and other local guides, but which wouldn't get a look in from 50 Best's angle on the global food scene. Following the 50 Best list to the letter is likely to yield a good meal, but you must remember you are following a path that is by definition already well trodden by the global food scenesters."
With that in mind, the team at Traveller has decided to pay tribute to those eateries across the globe that, while they may never catch the attention of the World's 50 Best judges, are still sure to provide diners with an amazing experience. We're christened it our "World's 50 Second-Best". Not all of the them have celebrity chefs banging the pans, and nor may be cutting-edge. But they do provide exactly what travellers are looking for: a memorable and affordable dining experience.
QUIOSC MODERN, BARCELONA
In the middle of the Boqueria market, from sunrise to sunset, the Santiago family serve upsized tapas such as squid and poached eggs, poached clams, baccala salad, tripe with chickpeas, grilled octopus, fried artichokes and sweet green chillis called pebrots. You'll have to queue to sit on one of their stools, but it's worth the wait. Quiosc Modern, Mercado de la Boqueria, 364. $75 for two. (No phone, no website, you just have to find it in the middle of the markets).
KAFER DACHGARTEN RESTAURANT, BERLIN
It's on top of the Reichstag (Germany's federal parliament) so you must go through intensive security checks before the lift doors open. Most dishes have traditional German names, but have been updated with lightness and wit – even the schnitzel. Top taste is the duckburger with beetroot salad. From the verandah you can survey the rooftops of Berlin. Just outside the doorway you can look down upon the parliamentarians through the bombproof glass ceiling. Deutschen Bundestag, Platz der Republik, Berlin. $160 for two, without wine. feinkost-kaefer.de
Pronounced Dublay, this restaurant calls itself a "meze bar" but the tasty treats are more diverse and more adventurous than the label might suggest – like hummus with roasted peanuts or local prawns wrapped in pastirma (spiced beef) and grilled. Because it's atop the Palazzo Donizetti hotel, the view is spectacular. Go at twilight to see the colours of the Bosphorous and to avoid the late-night DJ spinning old Turkish pop songs. Mesrutiyet Caddesi 85, Istanbul. $96 for two, without raki.
It's easy to find a good meal in Copenhagen; more challenging is trying to find a restaurant that won't break your budget. Give thanks for the Cofoco group, which boasts an impressive portfolio of sophisticated, stylish eateries that offer great-value set menus. Perhaps their most inviting property is the lovely Vakst, with greenhouse-inspired interiors and a menu big on classics with a twist. Sankt Peders Stræde 34. $162 for two (three courses); hostvakst.dk
Two eccentric brothers run this "bistrot de la mer" near the old port. Serge Frasca displays a blackboard menu full of mysterious fish names such as loup, lotte, palomide and chapon, and speaks mostly Nicois dialect. Chef Alexis Frasca does a lot of shouting in the kitchen, but is all charm when he emerges to explain in English what he's cooking that day. His treatment of local seafood and seasonal vegetables is more sophisticated than the simple decor might suggest, and his desserts are worth saving space for. 41 Boulevard Stalingrad, Nice. $160 for two, without wine.
PIZZERIA EMMA, ROME
This is exactly what every visitor to Rome is looking for: a simple, unpretentious and yet reliable restaurant in the historic centre, the sort of place you can sit with a nice glass of wine and some extremely good pizza and not feel like you're caught in touristy hell. Welcome to Pizzeria Emma. Via del Monte della Farina 28, Rome, Italy. Meal for two about $85. emmapizzeria.com
LA CRUCHE D'OR, STRASBOURG
It's a tiny, wood-panelled Alsatian restaurant run by a family who care about the classics. They do impeccable kidneys or sweetbreads in cream and mustard sauce), sole meuniere, choucroute (sausage and cabbage) and sweeties such as creme brulee, baba au rhum, and chocolate mousse. Best espressos in France. La Cruche d'Or, 6 Rue Des Tonneliers, Strasbourg. $106 for two, without wine. la-cruche-dor.strasbourghotelsweb.com
CAL JOAN, TARRAGONA, SPAIN
In what the locals call "a formerly dubious tavern", Joan Cobos and his daughter Esther have been cooking superb seafood since 1997, including a definitive paella and fideua (a Catalan kind of pasta). You'd best start with a thick seafood soup, into which you'd stir aioli or romesco sauce from bowls on the table. You'd finish, of course, with crema Catalana, orange-infused custard topped with toffee. Espinach 2, Tarragona. $120 for two, without wine.
ANTICHE CARAMPANE, VENICE
The name literally translates from Venetian dialect as "Old Sluts" – a reference to the building's history as a brothel during Venice's golden age 400 years ago. The same cheeky tone appears in the sign on the window, warning "No pizza, no lasagna, no menu turistico". Instead they specialise in tiny shellfish caught in the lagoon and refined forms of pasta. DD Antiche Carampane, Rio Tera de le Carampane, 1911, Sestiere San Polo, Venezia. $128 for two, without wine. antichecarampane.com
SITZWOHL, INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA
Multi-hatted chefs Elisabeth Geisler and Irmgard Sitzwohl take the joint helm at this restaurant, housed in a former school hall divided into intimate, semi-private dining spaces. Classy, reimagined versions of traditional Tyrolean food is at the fore, such as delicious mushroom dumplings or the pan-fried bacon, onion and potato dish Grostl, but Mediterranean influences are apparent too. Save room for an elegant version of Austrian apricot pancakes.Stadtforum, Innsbruck; $117 for two; restaurantsitzwohl.at
SALUMERIA ROSCIOLI, ROME
This might just be the ideal version of a Roman trattoria: all of the classic pasta dishes, the likes of carbonara and amatriciana, cacio e pepe and gricia, served up in friendly but fancy surrounds near Campo dei Fiori. The salumi – processed meats – at Roscioli are great, but the pasta is the showstopper. Via dei Giubbonari 21/22, Rome, Italy. $85 for two. salumeriaroscioli.com
MERCADO DE RIBEIRA, LISBON
Many of Lisbon's best chefs and the city's most well-known restaurants, as well as stockists of the area's best wine and makers of its best pastries, reside under one roof at Mercado de Ribeira, a modern marketplace featuring a huge selection of the tastiest food the city has to offer. The only problem is deciding what to order. Av. 24 de Julho 49, Lisbon, Portugal. $59 for two. timeoutmarket.com
COOKIES CREAM, BERLIN
Cookies Cream is one of those hip Berlin venues that requires directions rather than an address. Walk down the delivery bay next to the Westin Grand Hotel, head up the fire stairs, push open the door and you will find yourself in an inviting eyrie that serves some of the city's best food, which just happens to be vegetarian. Order the parmesan dumplings if they are on. 55 Behrenstrasse, Berlin. $142 for two (three courses); cookiescream.com/cream
FURREYYA GALATA BALIKCISI, ISTANBUL
You've got to love a city where the signature dish is a fish sandwich. Done right, even a fish sandwich can be a thing of beauty, and no-one does them better than this little hole-in-the-wall near the Galata Tower. You won't often find a spare seat at the handful of tables, but you can always take your sandwich to go. Serdar-i Ekrem Sok. 2, Galata. $4 for a fish sandwich. No website.
TRATTORIA MILANESE, MILAN
Swanky, fashionable Milan finds its beating heart at this family-run trattoria dating from 1933 where a bevy of assorted relatives are either working or dining on authentic, unfussy Milanese classics – things like the saffron-hued risotto alla Milanese (either with or without osso bucco), breaded cotoletta and zabaglione with toasted panetone. As Mallory Wall, maitre d' at Melbourne's Cafe Di Stasio says, "Try and sit in the room to the right as you walk in and feel at one with the soul of Milan … pretend you're Italian for a couple of hours." Via Santa Marta 11, Milan. $128 for two. No website.
TRATTORIA AL MORO, ROME
An old-fashioned charm-pot of a restaurant, Al Moro is tucked in a backstreet near the Trevi fountain in Rome's central tourist district, but remains very much a restaurant for locals (who certainly know how to dress nicely for lunch or dinner). Relax on a squishy banquette and be cosseted by waiters of the old school, who will give newcomers sage advice on the classic Roman menu – in particular steering them in the direction on the spaghetti al moro, a spicy play on the classic carbonara.
Vicolo delle Bollette 13, Rome; $128 for two; ristorantealmororoma.com
RISTORANTE TULLIO, ROME
Just off Rome's Piazza Barberini lurks this smartly upscale classic Roman restaurant beloved by well-heeled Romans and visiting foreign dignitaries. For more than 60 years the smart family-run operation has been perfecting the art of Italian simplicity. An entree can just be as simple as a single perfect artichoke on a plate, and make sure you order the house specialty of braised abbachio (goat). Via San Nicola da Tolentino 26, Rome. $149 for two. tullioristorante.it
QUIMET Y QUIMET, BARCELONA
Quimet y Quimet is iconic – though no one who works there would ever say so. It's that sort of place, the perfect laidback Barcelona tapas bar, the establishment you've been looking for all this time, the tiny, rowdy, cheap, fun, and above all delicious Spanish eatery of your dreams. Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes 25, Poble Sec, Barcelona, Spain. $27 for two. No website.
RISTORANTE MAJORE, SICILY
Get some pork on your fork. Yes, everything at this 121-year-old restaurant in the tiny hill town of Chiaramonte Gulfi, outside Ragusa, is testament to the inestimable deliciousness of our porcine friends. Based on classic recipes of Sicily's mountainous south-east, the set menu is a whirlwind of salumi, pasta, risotto, stuffed chops, and more, and the waiters have the full quiver of Sicilian red (and white) wines at their disposal. Via Martiri Ungherisi, Chiaramonte Gulfi. $128 for two. majore.it
UNITED KINGDOM & IRELAND
REX WHISTLER RESTAURANT, TATE BRITAIN, LONDON
Who said there was no such thing as English cuisine? The gallery with the world's best Turner collection has a restaurant as patriotic as the painter, offering the likes of Jerusalem artichoke soup, pigeon breast with pickled berries, Hampshire trout with watercress, baked apple with toffee sauce. You sit surrounded by an extraordinary mural, painted in 1926, of fantasy hunting scenes. Tate Britain Gallery, Millbank, Westminster, London. Lunch only. $160 for two (and ask the amiable sommelier to find matching wines from the massive list). tate.org.uk
FOREST AND MARCY, DUBLIN
This cosy restaurant-wine bar, around 10 minutes walk from St Stephen's Green, is a beast with two personalities. Wednesdays and Thursdays it is all about the small plates, such as foie gras custard tart or a clever update of a classic Irish potato bread, teamed with bacon and cabbage relish. On weekends, the tasting menu (featuring many of the same dishes) takes over. 126 Leeson Street Upper, Dublin 4. Tasting menu $145 for two; forestandmarcy.ie
On a chilly night, there is no better place to warm up than this welcoming neighbourhood joint. The menu showcases the best of Scottish seafood, from oysters and langoustines to scallops, mussels and yes, even fish and chips. Kick it off with a steaming bowl of shellfish chowder, or a sizzling plate of Queenie scallops in garlic butter. 1114 Argyle Street, Finneston. $103 for two; crabshakk.com
ST JOHN BREAD AND WINE, LONDON
Legendary big sibling St John is on the extended World's 50 Best list – at No. 91 – but Fergus Henderson's signature brand of nose-to-tail cooking can also be experienced at his East London offshoot just near Spitalfields market. Originally born as a bakery, it's now the home of everything from stonkingly good English breakfasts (including the best bacon buttie you'll ever have) to the famous roast bone marrow and parsley salad. 94-96 Commercial Street, London. Breakfast for two about $42, lunch/dinner $84. stjohnbreadandwine.com
UOSHIN IZAKAYA, TOKYO
A Japanese izakaya is a beautiful thing, a smoky den dedicated to both the drinking of sake and the eating of delicious food. And few places execute these worthy pursuits as successfully as Uoshin, a small, friendly bar in the Ebisu district that serves incredibly good, multi-course seafood meals paired with all-you-can-drink sake. Heaven. Ebisu Minami 1-2-9, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Meal for two about $64 for two. No website.
INDIGO, GEORGE TOWN
Tucked into the remarkable, blue-coloured Cheong Fatt Tze traditional Chinese courtyard mansion in George Town, Penang, Malaysia, this understated restaurant has east-west fusion dishes that reflect the east-west blend of Penang's vibrant culture. Hometown chef Beh Weng Chia has worked in Australia, the USA and Japan and is particularly adept with seafood, though his crispy duck leg and short ribs in soy caramel are lip-smacking too. 14 Leith Street, George Town, Penang; $128 for two; cheongfatttzemansion.com
How can food on a stick taste so good? How can a simple piece of char-grilled chicken, or a mushroom, or a potato, be elevated to such a level? You might never figure it out. But the joy at Fuku, a tiny, upmarket yakitori joint in suburban Tokyo, is taking the time to try. Nishihara 3-23-4, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Meal for two about $64.
EASTERN & ORIENTAL, JAKARTA
Many Aussie travellers will know chef Will Meyrick's food from his Bali diners, Sarong and Mamasan. Eastern & Oriental delivers a variation on his successful formula, with classy cocktails and pan-Asian plates – think soft shell crab salad with rose apple and shredded coconut – served amid a dimly lit, colonial chic interior. Menara Rajawali lt.1, Jl. Dr. Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung Lot#5.1, Kawasan Mega Kuningan, RT.5/RW.2, Kuningan Tim., Setia Budi, Kota Jakarta Selatan. About $70 for two. eandojakarta.com
YAT LOK, HONG KONG
A roast goose specialist in Hong Kong's bustling Central district, Yat Lok is a rare case of the overused term "institution" being right on the money. The place itself is an unprepossessing cafeteria where diners are packed in like a game of Tetris, the service is legendarily brusque and paper napkins cost extra – but with a plate of sublime crisp-skinned roast duck and a dish of sweet plum sauce, who really cares? About $21 for two.
LI QUN, BEIJING
If Peking duck's your thing, set your compass for Li Qun. Quite literally: it's a tiny family-run place hidden deep inside one of Beijing's typically maze-like hutongs, and it can prove maddeningly hard to find (tip: grab a pedicap and get the driver to do the navigating for you). Persevere, however, because Peking duck Nirvana awaits. Moist, slightly smoky meat, crisp skin, and thin perfect pancakes make the best kind of equation, and the humble courtyard establishment is a million miles away from the city's duck tourist traps. 11 Beixiangfeng Hutong, off Zhengyi Lu, Chongwenmen, Beijing. $64 for two. No website.
Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino tends to fly under the radar on the Lima food scene – however, his menu of traditional Amazonian ingredients fused with modern techniques, presented in fine-dining surrounds, deserves to be far better known. Sample the likes of guinea pig with kim chi, or smoked paiche, an ancient Amazonian fish. Camino Real 101, San Isidro, Lima, Peru. $96 for two. malabar.com.pe
LA CABRERA, BUENOS AIRES
La Cabrera will probably never make the 50 Best list, because there's nothing too inventive going on here. It's just a classic Argentinean "parrilla", or steakhouse; however, there's nothing wrong with that. This is steak done to perfection, cooked with love and served in style. There's a great wine list too. Jose Antonio Cabrera 5099, Buenos Aires, Argentina. $91 or two about lacabrera.com.ar
FOOD & WINE STUDIO BY PILAR RODRIGUEZ, COLCHAGUA VALLEY, CHILE
Chile is not a country known for its cuisine; however, in the wine country of Colchagua Valley, former fashion designer turned chef Pilar Rodriguez is doing something special, presenting an intimate food and wine experience in her tiny kitchen and dining room. It's only open on weekends – be sure to book ahead. KM37 Carretera Del Vino, Santa Cruz, Chile $192 for two. pilarrodriguez.cl
NIGHTINGALE, VANCOUVER, CANADA
The city's Downtown district got a well-needed, original restaurant when Nightingale opened last year, offering seasonally changing, unpretentious dishes in an industrial-chic, heritage building. This is noted local chef David Hawksworth's third Vancouver restaurant, and focuses on shared dishes, designed to be enjoyed with boutique beers or Canadian wines. Thumbs up for many creative vegetable dishes: who knew roasted cauliflower could taste this good? 1017 West Hastings Street, Vancouver; $107 for two; hawknightingale.com
ALLRED'S RESTAURANT, TELLURIDE, US
Few ski resorts can claim to have great restaurants on the slopes, but Allred's sits atop a gondola station. It has a warm atmosphere, very friendly service, fabulous mountain views from its cathedral-like windows and excellent upmarket, Italian-influenced, contemporary American food such as marinated elk loin with roasted pistachios and caramelised onion, or succulent Colorado rack of lamb with eggplant-tomato jam. Station St Sophia, Telluride; $214 for two; tellurideskiresort.com
APRAZIVEL, RIO DE JANEIRO
Aprazivel is not a restaurant you stumble across by accident. Hidden behind a high wall in the hilltop Santa Teresa district, this family-run gem is a favourite with locals, thanks to its lush garden setting and panoramic views. The food lives up to the surroundings, with sophisticated dishes showcasing native ingredients and cooking traditions from across the country. Rua Aprazivel 62, Santa Teresa. $100 for two (two courses); aprazivel.com.br
AU PIED DE COCHON, MONTREAL
Described by Anthony Bourdain as "the restaurant I'd been waiting for my whole life", this Montreal diner is resolutely vegetarian-unfriendly. Chef Martin Picard throws foie gras onto just about every plate: stuffing it in pork trotters, mashing it into croquettes, slamming it on top of poutine. It shouldn't work, but you know what? It really does. 536 Duluth Est. $127 for two; aupieddecochon.ca
GJELINA, LOS ANGELES
This laidback, all-day diner is exactly the sort of place you want to visit when you are in LA; so much so, that it's worth braving the hour-long wait at weekends and the mandatory 20 per cent service charge. Self-taught chef Travis Lett offers an eclectic menu, but the highlights are vegetable dishes such as coal-roasted baby leek with burrata, meyer lemon and bottarga. 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice. $115 for two; gjelina.com
Most people won't have the time to travel to the Basque Country just to sample the delights of Etxebarri, the fire-driven restaurant recently named the world's sixth best. They can, however, dine at Sydney's Firedoor, run by one-time Etxebarri chef Lennox Hastie, who has created a love letter to his former home. 23 Mary Street, Surry Hills, NSW. $150 for two about firedoor.com.au
PASTA ADAGIO, MELBOURNE
The ideal of the simple Italian joint serving impeccable pasta is realised in inner Melbourne, where chef Carmine Constantini is responsible for a dish of tagliatelle with ragu (please don't call it bolognese) that could have grown adults weeping over the Italian nonna they may or may not have had. The rest of the menu is no slouch either. Bridge Road, Richmond; $118 for two; pastaadagio.com.au
SEED WINEHOUSE, CLARE VALLEY
Given its location in sleepy Clare, South Australia, Seed Winehouse will probably never earn the acclaim of its siblings in the Barossa or McLaren Vale. However, this restaurant is dishing up some seriously great mod-Oz food, dishes such as wood-grilled octopus with PX vinegar, and Berkshire suckling pig, to those prepared to seek it out. 308 Main N Road, Clare, South Australia; $128 for two; seed.kitchen
CONTRIBUTORS: David Dale, Larissa Dubecki, Ben Groundwater, Brian Johnston, Ute Junker