The World’s Best Restaurant? Yes, as voted for a panel of almost 1,000 gastronomic experts worldwide. After two years in the No.2 spot, Massimo Bottura’s tranquil restaurant in a Modena back street rightly steps up to take the global crown, reflecting the chef’s ongoing creativity, immense skill, undimmed passion and fierce determination to defy the odds.
What was stacked against him? Italian tradition. The 53-year-old chef-owner, who celebrated Osteria Francescana’s 20th anniversary in 2015, has long played with Italian culinary standards – reinventing, subverting and improving. But in a country whose food culture is deeply conservative, that is a daring and sometimes controversial path to take. Bottura has not only drawn global plaudits and worldwide custom, but also won over his own nation’s critics.
What diners can expect: Unusually for such an exalted restaurant, it still offers an a la carte option alongside two tasting menus. Of these, Sensations is the progressive, seasonal ever-changing showpiece; Tradition in Evolution is something of a greatest hits compilation, celebrating the Emilia-Romagna region in which Modena sits and whence the chef hails.
A few highlights: The famous Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano explores the region’s esteemed cheese via temperature, texture and, of course, taste. Conversely, Autumn in New York reflects the chef’s international outlook and influences (his wife, Lara, is American): pickled and preserved fall vegetables are combined with a mineral broth featuring dried mushrooms and pumpkin concentrate, with spectacular results.
The dining room: Bottura’s creations are heavily influenced by art and music (jazz in particular), and three elegant rooms that make up the dining space are adorned with high-quality contemporary artworks. This remains very much a luxurious fine dining establishment, but recalibrated for the current era.
What else: The effervescent Bottura founded Food for Soul non-profit project in early 2016 in a bid to fight hunger and food wastage.