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The Monocle
Restaurant Awards 2018

Our favourite picks from our editors' travels, now in its fourth year. The winners of The Monocle Restaurant Awards are the ones that we find ourselves coming back to for their dishes, great chefs, old-school staff, lively manners and perfect dining rooms. All food here is guaranteed craze-free.

This year's winners

There’s plenty to be written about novel restaurants and fresh chefs and we celebrate them most months in Monocle. But what of the neighbourhood spots that have catered for us for years, or those special openings with the makings of future classics? That’s where our annual restaurant awards come in.

Now in its fourth year, our rundown celebrates a clutch of restaurants in which our editors have eaten well (or enjoyed a great cocktail) and felt looked after. Expect new spots in Bangkok, Seoul, Zürich and Mexico City among others, plus a celebration of lesser-known independents alongside a few familiar dining rooms that deserve extra helpings of praise. Let us show you to your table.

01

The River Café

London

The riverside haunt in Hammersmith belonging to Ruth Rogers (pictured) celebrated 30 years of service in 2017 and, though we don’t normally go in for anniversaries (too often sentimental and self-congratulatory), this is a poignant one. A quick headcount of the lauded chefs who cut their teeth in this Italian kitchen is one measure of Rogers’ success. Another is her stoic refusal to move, franchise the restaurant’s good name or branch out at the expense of her one-and-only spot.

What you’ll experience instead is Italian food that’s elevated to mystifying heights in humble-sounding dishes, such as polenta with cavolo nero and stracciatella ice cream or Taleggio-topped pizzettas.

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02

Cignale Enoteca

Tokyo

Toshiji Tomori’s Komaba restaurant has retained its consistently high standard and warm feel. Four years in Piedmont and Tuscany form the backbone of Tomori’s cooking style but it’s fused with top Japanese ingredients and a stint at celebrated Californian farm-to-table restaurant Chez Panisse; a strong wine list and freshly baked bread add to the charm.

Fans of Tomori’s original – and tiny – restaurant in Gakugei-daigaku will be pleased to hear that it has been reborn as Cignale Vino & Pane, opening irregularly for wine and tapas.

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03

Bistro 100 Maneiras

Lisbon

Last year’s winner is across two floors of an art deco-style mansion in Lisbon’s Chiado. Inside you’ll find hearty dishes with Portuguese, Yugoslavian, Italian and French flavours. Chef Ljubomir Stanisic opened the 80-seat space in 2010, a year after he began offering an inventive 10-course tasting menu at his more formal Restaurante 100 Maneiras in Bairro Alto.

Start with a thirst-quenching cocktail shaken by bartender Jorge Camilo and moreish potato-skin crisps, then choose between updated classics such as grilled squid with lime risotto or pork tenderloin with creamy beetroot polenta. Doors are open every day until 02.00.

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04

Okonomi

New York

A now-classic Brooklyn stop off, Okonomi rose to fame with its traditional ichiju-sansai Japanese breakfast bites. Chef and owner Yuji Haraguchi has called Okonomi home since 2013 but the fishmonger-turned-chef had been wowing Brooklynites for years before, mostly with his ramen pop-ups. While Okonomi focuses on seafood-based breakfast and Japanese omelettes during the day, in the evening the cosy 12-seat joint switches gears to ramen. Specialising in cult favourite mazemen, which is served without broth, Haraguchi has built a small restaurant empire spanning both the US and Japan. If you are lucky enough to bag a seat be sure to dig into the bacon-and-egg mazemen.

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05

The Blind Donkey

Tokyo

After the stir caused by Shin Harakawa’s Meguro restaurant Beard, his second helping with Jérôme Waag (both pictured, Harakawa on left) in Kanda was always going to be special. The Blind Donkey’s menu is peppered with produce that the pair found while visiting farmers and fishermen around Japan and has maintained some of the rustic feel of its fêted, and now closed, predecessor.

The 30-seat restaurant serves a changing menu that might include Matsuba crab salad or pork loin with shell beans, grilled leek and walnuts. Reservations are in demand but walk-ins can head to the bar for homemade nibbles, wine and highballs. We’re glad to have them back.

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06

Bagno Bruno

Forte dei Marmi

The stretch of beach of northern Tuscany’s Versilia is lined with cheerful mid-century clubs but none compare to Bagno Bruno when it comes to down-to-earth atmosphere. Since it opened in 1951, the menu has been sticking to the area’s classics, including spaghetti with white wine and arselle: tiny clams that are harvested on Bagno Bruno’s own seashore.

Chef-cum-fisherman Daniele Balderi heads out to sea to catch the fish that he prepares. It’s hard to think of a better setting for a summery lunch than this: pull up a chair under the club’s wooden shack and order a glass of crisp vermentino while you snack on fritto misto (lightly battered fried fish).

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07

Restaurant Bürgli

Zürich

On our list again is Restaurant Bürgli, which boasts handsome views across the lake from its 1864 building. But it’s not just the outlook that makes this a favourite: Regula Gloor Belide and Catharine Joss, who took over the restaurant in 2003, have brought with them a dependable mix of classic dishes. Opt for the entrecôte Café de Paris served with as many French fries as you can possibly find room for.

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08

Sturehof

Stockholm

The waiters here may wear double-breasted jackets but the mood is more bustling brasserie than anything too formal. Fresh seafood is the order of the day, although this city favourite started as a German beer hall back in 1897 before it became the city staple it is today. Don’t fear the extensive menu: start with some knäckerbröd (crispbread) then half a dozen oysters, followed by deep-fried perch from Lake Mälaren.

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09

Beim Sedlmayr

Munich

Traditional Bavarian cuisine fell out of fashion in Munich about 20 years ago; it might well have slipped out of sight altogether were it not for the efforts of Rudi Färber and his ilk. Beim Sedlmayr’s owner and his hardworking team have kept the old ways alive with their substantial down-to-earth dishes, which include soup with liver dumplings, roasted calf’s tongue with mushrooms and homemade noodles baked with cheese and onion.

The restaurant is rustic, with more effort put into the food than the decor. But it’s always packed with satisfied customers – especially at lunchtime, when it’s a top spot to meet for a bite to eat and a pint of Paulaner.


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10

Sea Horse

Helsinki

Sea Horse has been serving some of the best Finnish cuisine since the 1930s – and, once you’re inside, it feels like little has changed. Unlike so many other restaurants in Helsinki, this place has always respected its history. Many of its classic dishes, including crispy fried Baltic herring and its own version of a beef steak, have been part of the menu for the past 60 years.

Loved for its food, the restaurant is equally famous for its lively and welcoming atmosphere. As the service proudly implies, titles don’t matter much here and the restaurant can cater to a small town’s worth of artists, business folk or curious lunchers – it’s all in a day’s service.

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