Why the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list has no names from India

Why the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list has no names from India
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A dish served at Gaggan, Bangkok named Made in Japan.

The San Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 was announced on Monday night in London. Gaggan Anand’s eponymous Bangkok restaurant, serving progressive Indian cuisine, grabbed the 10th spot. It had also topped the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list held in March. Delhi-based Indian Accent owned by Manish Mehrotra, known for serving dishes like ‘Tuna Bhel Ceviche, Strawberry Green Chilli Chutney’ and ‘Meetha Achaar Chilean Spare Ribs, Sun Dried Mango, Toasted Kalonji Seeds’, debuted at 77.

The top honour went to the Roca brothers of Spain for their traditional yet avant garde restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca of Girona. Italian chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena has been placed second, followed by René Redzepi’s Copenhagen restaurant, Noma which is known for serving eccentric food.

In a country that has a booming food and dining culture, it comes as a surprise why the list has seen hardly any names from India in recent past. Many have also debated how India being a gourmand’s paradise, has been left out time and again from the list. Most restaurants are from Europe followed by USA and Mexico. However, in 2002, Restaurant magazine placed Delhi restaurant Bukhara in the top 20.

So, is it about the world’s ‘fanciest’ restaurants? Marryam H Reshii, Delhi-based food critic says, “Well, the jury will not recommend a Moti Mahal or a Gaylord! They will select only those they feel are likely to make it to the list. About why there are no restaurants from India apart from Indian Accent and earlier Bukhara, I think we have to package and market our cuisine to match the international standards.”

The reason why Gaggan and Indian Accent have been accepted well worldwide is the fact that the food served is Indian with a twist. “It is essential to tweak traditional recipes to suit the international taste. Unless we don’t bastardise our food, it is impossible to make it to the list,” says Anirudhya Roy, Executive Chef of Taj Lands End, Mumbai. He also points out that our food culture may be well evolved, but it is our attitude that puts us behind. “People in the West love to appreciate finer things in life, be it art and culture, cinema as well as food. In India, we are more concerned about our jobs, and therefore work hard to earn our food. Nobody has the time to sit and enjoy a five course meal here!”

The voting process for the San Pellegrino list involves voters to dine at the restaurants they vote for within the past 18 months. Celebrity chef and MasterChef India co-judge, Ranveer Brar says, “How many people from the jury travel to India to try the food here? Also, the West has always boasted of chef-driven restaurants, whereas in India it is fairly a new concept. It is unfortunate that the top 50 list has no names from India, but I am hopeful.”

Rituparna Roy

Rituparna Roy

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