When was the last time you were surprised by a list ranking the best restaurants in the world? Such lists receive a lot of criticism. The same names appear on them again and again and the restaurants on them are usually widely known. International travellers are probably queuing to get into them because they are so reputed around the world.
What you get outside of these lists is uncountable restaurants working hard to gain attention and customers. PR agencies are busy writing press releases and promoting new ventures around the world. A few years ago one of London’s sushi restaurants was serving food using drones – that was a story that made it internationally. Funnily enough, I’ve never seen them when passing by the restaurant. Possibly because flying food to tables is simply an unpractical idea. But the publicity trick worked: people now remember the name.
Another way to gain attention seems to be talking about money. Nothing else explains why I receive so many press releases about restaurants serving the world’s most expensive burgers, most exclusive chocolates and rarest champagne.
But what if we cut out all this gimmickry and just concentrate on the places where we feel most relaxed and want to return to again and again? When writing recently for Monocle’s upcoming London travel guide, I realised that most of the places I found myself recommending to readers were not familiar from lists. Most have no Michelin stars nor white tablecloths. What they do have is a warm, welcoming feel and amazing food made from top ingredients with minimum fuss and unnecessary tricks.
These places don’t waste time with foams and stamp-sized portions. Instead they focus on what they do with dedication and sincerity. They may have been there for decades, creating an important role for themselves in the local community.
This is why, among all restaurant-ranking lists, there is space for one more. That’s why we are doing the Monocle Restaurant Awards. We want to offer recognition for places that deserve it, that are loved by the locals but might not have fancy PR campaigns to get the attention they deserve.
You can hear the nominees listed every Friday when our food-and-drink programme The Menu premieres on Monocle 24 at 19.00 UK time. Expect honest, quality food and great hospitality – and not a drone in sight.
Markus Hippi is a Monocle 24 presenter and producer.