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Noma wins top prize at San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurants awards

By Tracy You and Barry Neild, for CNN
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 0353 GMT (1153 HKT)
Copenhagen's Noma restaurant won top honors in the prestigious San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, bumping last year's winner, Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, into second place. Copenhagen's Noma restaurant won top honors in the prestigious San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, bumping last year's winner, Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, into second place.
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Winner: Noma (Denmark)
Second place: El Celler de Can Roca (Spain)
Third place: Osteria Francescana (Italy)
Fourth place: Eleven Madison Park (New York)
Fifth place: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (London)
Sixth place: Mugaritz (Spain)
Seventh place: D.O.M. (Brazil)
Eighth place: Arzak (Spain)
Ninth place: Alinea (Chicago)
Tenth place: Ledbury (London)
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards seen as Oscars of fine dining industry
  • Noma returns to top place, knocking last year's winner, Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, into second
  • Awards are now viewed by some as more influential than coveted Michelin stars

London (CNN) -- Get dialing for your reservation now: Noma in Copenhagen has been named the world's best restaurant at a ceremony revealing the planet's top 50 dining venues.

To raucous cheers, high fives, hugs and kisses, team Noma took to the stage in a packed London venue in jubilant scenes that wouldn't be out of place at the World Cup in Brazil later this year.

Noma's top honor in the prestigious San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards -- viewed as the Oscars of fine dining -- was the fourth win for minimalist Danish pioneer of foraged menus.

The award was presented late Monday at a ceremony in central London attended by some of the world's leading chefs.

"It's too (expletive deleted) crazy!" said Noma's head chef, Rene Redzepi, picking up the award. "Thank you for believing in us.

"In the last year (after the restaurant was awarded second place) my staff and I looked into each others' eyes and said 'let's just really really work hard.' We made a plan and said 'let's make this the best year we've ever had.'"

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"But to have this is a whole surprise, none of us expected it."

The list, now in its 12th year, is dominated by European venues, but there were prizes for restaurants from around the world, including Asia's first top 20 entry.

The biggest climber was Lima, Peru, restaurant Central, which jumped from No. 50 last year to No. 15 this year.

The highest debut entry was Gaggan from Bangkok, which came in at No. 17.

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Highly influential

There were few changes in the list's top 10.

Last year's winner, Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, was bumped to second place, with Italy's Osteria Francescana holding steady at number three.

Eleven Madison Park: The highest ranked U.S. restaurant
Eleven Madison Park: The highest ranked U.S. restaurant

Despite the repeat victory for Noma, it's still yet to match the record of Spain's El Bulli, which claimed four successive wins before head chef Ferran Adria closed its doors in 2011.

Other winners in the top 10 were, in fourth place New York's Eleven Madison Park, followed by Spain's Mugaritz, Brazil's D.O.M., London's Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Spain's Arzak, Chicago's Alinea and The Ledbury, another London restaurant.

Noma, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, was praised for its "fresh approach and energy."

The restaurant's menu serves diners with a series of "snacks" largely sourced from the Nordic landscape -- dishes that include sea urchin toast and a beef tartar that includes ants.

Most of the winners -- a total of 28 -- were from Europe, with Spain claiming seven top 50 positions.

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Nahm, a Thai restaurant in Bangkok that earlier this year was named Asia's best, made it to number 13 in the list -- the region's highest entry.

Organized by UK-based Restaurant Magazine and sponsored by Italian drinks manufacturers San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, the awards are seen as highly influential in the fine dining industry.

Noma's first win in 2010 is credited with catapulting the restaurant to international stardom.

Reputedly, the day after winning, it received enough online reservations to fill its 45 seats for a decade -- thankfully, it only takes bookings for a few weeks in advance.

Some observers say the awards now hold greater sway over a restaurant's financial success and bookings than coveted Michelin star rankings, often transforming them into major travel destinations.

'Beauty contest'

"This is the big one," contest chairman Richard Vines told CNN ahead of the awards. "Although you can argue about the list, everyone wants to be on it."

MORE: Great Copenhagen restaurants not named Noma

Arzak, one of seven Spanish top 10 winners.
Arzak, one of seven Spanish top 10 winners.

Vines said the list isn't a rival to Michelin's "systematic" assessments, describing it as a spontaneous "beauty contest for restaurants."

The list was decided by votes compiled from 900 restaurant industry figures.

The winning names were closely guarded ahead of this year's ceremony after details were leaked prior to announcement in 2013.

British chef Fergus Henderson received a lifetime achievement award at this year's event.

Henderson's St. John restaurant in London has championed "nose-to-tail" eating that utilizes every part of an animal.

San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants for 2014

1. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark

2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain

3. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy

4. Eleven Madison Park, New York

5. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

6. Mugartiz, San Sebastian, Spain

7. D.O.M., Sao Paulo, Brazil

8. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain

El Celler de Can Roca was bumped into second place.
El Celler de Can Roca was bumped into second place.

9. Alinea, Chicago

10. The Ledbury, London

11. Mirazur, Menton, France

12. Vendome, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany

13. Nahm, Bangkok

14. Narisawa, Tokyo

15. Central, Lima, Peru

16. Steirereck, Vienna

17. Gaggan, Bangkok

18. Astrid y Gaston, Lima, Peru

19. Fäviken, Järpen, Sweden

20. Pujol, Mexico City

21. Le Bernardin, New York

22. Vila Joya, Albufeira, Portugal

23. Restaurant Frantzén, Stockholm

24. Amber, Hong Kong

25. L'Arpege, Paris

26. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain

27. Le Chateaubriand, Paris

28. Aqua, Wolfsburg, Germany

29. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands

30. Per Se, New York

31. L'Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon, Paris

32. Attica, Melbourne, Australia

33. Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo

34. Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo, Spain

35. Martin Berasategui, Lasarte-Oria, Spain

36. Maní, Sao Paulo, Brazil

37. Restaurant Andre, Singapore

38. L'Astrance, Paris

39. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy

40. Daniel, New York

41. Quique Dacosta, Dénia, Spain

42. Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark

43. Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland

44. French Laundry, Yountville, California

45. Hof Van Cleeve, Kruishoutem, Belgium

46. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy

47. The Fat Duck, Bray, UK

48. The Test Kitchen, Cape Town, South Africa

49. Coi, San Francisco

50. Waku Ghin, Singapore

One to Watch Restaurant: Saison, San Francisco

Best Restaurant in Africa: The Test Kitchen, Cape Town, South Africa

World's Pastry Chef: Jordi Roca, El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain

Sustainable Restaurant Award: Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain

Best Restaurant in Australasia: Attica, Melbourne, Australia

World's Best Female Chef: Helena Rizzo, Mani, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Chef's Choice Award: Alex Atala, D.O.M., Sao Paulo, Brazil

Highest Climber: Central, Lima, Peru

Highest New Entry: Gaggan, Bangkok

Best Restaurant in Asia: Nahm, Bangkok

Lifetime Achievement Award: Fergus Henderson, St. John, London

Best Restaurant in South America: D.O.M., Sao Paulo, Brazil

Best Restaurant in North America: Eleven Madison Park, New York

MORE: In Bangkok, the 'world's best' Indian restaurant

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