Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc gives his guide to the best restaurants in the world.
It takes an ensemble of things to make a good restaurant, food alone is not enough. For me a good restaurant should have a good ambience, it should have warmth, a true food and people culture, staff who care and food that makes you dream. It should offer a full experience and you need all the scenery and all the culture around the food to make the restaurant very special.
Service is important of course. Once there was a tremendous amount of interference when dining out, whereas now the modern guest doesn’t want to be disturbed. He wants to sit in a chair like he would sit in a lemon soufflé and just let go. For him intelligence in the restaurant’s design is more important than something showy – he wants to enter a space where you feel well. I hate gold taps, thick carpets, pompous sommeliers and pretentious, ‘fashionable’ surroundings. Fashion only lasts a few seconds and then it disappears. When you go in a space and it’s quietly modern and you feel well that’s what it’s about.
I’ve been in a restaurant where I was interrupted what felt like 72 times and I wanted to kill everyone around me. I don’t want constant interruptions or to have to choose from 25,000 courses – I just want to choose what I want to choose and I don’t want to be told what to eat. Now, the modern guest feels luxury is claiming back his own time and his own space and not being told what to do or what food goes with what wine. In my restaurants we ask if you want to be disturbed or not. If you don’t, we put the menu on your table and you can see what you’re eating; if you do, we can tell you everything you want to know. We give options and to me that’s true luxury.
Bras – Michel et Sébastien; Laguiole, France The greatest dining experience I had was at Michel Bras, in Laguiole. All of Michel’s food comes from local surroundings: he’s got the best cattle, the best of everything. His food is refined, modern, intelligent, rich and deep. When you eat there the dishes have layers after layers of flavours and I really love it. The restaurant is slightly rustic, with lots of wood and lots of warmth. It’s not an environment that’s trying to make some fashion statement. You feel well there. It’s one of the precursors of modern cuisine, definitely. I’ve eaten some extraordinary meals there.
elBulli; Roses en Cala Montjol, Spain
I know it’s closed now but I have to mention elBulli because one of the greatest dining experiences I ever had was there. Ferran Adrià is a great philosopher and a great cook; he cares about where food comes from, about local issues and seasonality; he’s a multifaceted talent. I think he’s creating the techniques and the gastronomy of tomorrow. He’s got such a huge intelligence and daring. I remember when I was there I had 42 dishes and, believe me, I could have had 72. (That’s why I’m called the hungry Frenchman.) It was fascinating. Was it the best food I ever had? No. Was it the most extraordinary dining experience I ever had? Yes.
Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse; Monaco
Le Louis XV, the Alain Ducasse restaurant in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, is an extremely luxurious space. It’s a highly convoluted environment and the restaurant is like Versailles – I’ve never seen so much gold in my life – but he’s managed to make it really warm and modern. The first time you go it’s quite impressive in a negative way because you ask yourself how you can eat in such an incredibly gold-plated environment. But when you actually sit down the service is wonderful and the human side takes over. I love the restaurant. Ducasse cooks Mediterranean food extremely well; he has a deep, deep understanding of cuisine. In fact, he’s probably the chef with the greatest understanding of Mediterranean food at the highest level – I’m talking about haute cuisine here – and his delivery is extremely modern but still retains a degree of classicism because he comes from a classic school. The food is absolutely brilliant and I always have amazing meals there.
Noma; Copenhagen, Denmark
I haven’t been yet but I have to compliment Noma in Copenhagen. Noma represents a new trend: a new trend of going back to the past; going back to purity; going back to simplicity. But it can be highly complicated to achieve simplicity. All of the messing around with the look of a plate is gone and you’re at the heart of food. You are steeped within it. I love [head chef] René Redzepi’s philosophy. It’s definitely my next destination.
The Fat Duck; Bray, England
I think Heston Blumenthal has been very instrumental in redefining a certain aspect of gastronomy and The Fat Duck in Bray is a wonderful restaurant. Heston is a lovely young man, completely focused with a good philosophy and a good approach to food and he’s a highly creative person with a great sense of humour. I always have wonderful meals at The Fat Duck although sometimes there are certain things I don’t need, like earphones playing the sound of the ocean when I’m eating seafood. I don’t want to be imposed upon – I have my own imagination. But he’s done a brilliant job and he’s shown a new leadership in terms of gastronomy. His is a form of gastronomy which reconnects with its own heritage and which cares about people – which trains and nurtures young talent rather than breaks them in front of television cameras.