In Depth

Paris restaurant L'Arpege named best in Europe

The Week Portfolio catches up with 'the king of food bloggers' Steve Plotnicki to find out how he reached his winner

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Respected restaurant ranking site Opinionated About Dining (OAD) has announced its 2017 Top 100+ European restaurants list - and Alain Passard's L'Arpege has been declared the best in Europe.

The annual ranking celebrating the best restaurants across Europe has been published since 2012, and is led by Steve Plotnicki, the food critic often referred to as the "king of food bloggers".

Following the announcement of the 2017 winners at a ceremony at the Maison Blanche in Paris, The Week Portfolio caught up with Plotnicki to find out how the winner was decided, how European restaurants differ from those in the US and what makes a dining experience truly exceptional.

You have just unveiled a list of the top 100+ European restaurants – how did you select your winners and why did they come out on top?

The list is based on the results of a survey I conduct with more than 5000 registered reviewers. I've developed an algorithm that assigns a weight to each reviewer based on the quality and quantity of the restaurants they've been to and a weight to each restaurant based on the quality of reviewers they attract and what those reviewers think about it. I believe that the more top restaurants one experiences, the more perspective one has to judge new ones in a broad context. The results represent a current perspective of what the destination dining community thinks about the top restaurants in Europe. Anyone can become a reviewer, it's a free and quick to join.

What are the key qualities that make a dining experience good?

People forget that a restaurant is a business. And the good restaurants are capitalised properly, hire talented staff and procure the very best ingredients. Add a top chef to the mix and you end up with a dining experience that most people would enjoy.

And what can instantly ruin one?

When a restaurant tries to be something it is not.

Are restaurants in Europe different from those in the US? If so, how?

US restaurants are typically much larger than ones in Europe. In Europe, top restaurants typically have 30-40 seats and only have one seating a night. In the US, you will see restaurants with 110 seats that do one and a half turns a night.

Interest in cookery has grown massively across the globe over the past 20 years and celebrity chefs are now routinely compared to rock stars. Having worked in both industries, do you think the comparison is fair?

In some ways. I think the chefs are far more approachable than rock stars in that they are in a business where they have to interact with their customers. Rock stars spend their careers on large stages removed from their audience.

In an article on Munchies, one anonymous chef called food bloggers "the devil's spawn". As "the king of food bloggers", do you ever encounter this attitude? Do you think it is wholly unwarranted?

Let's just say that there are some thin-skinned chefs out there and I occasionally run into them - or maybe I should say they run into me. But I never saw a chef who had a problem with bloggers who love their food. I wonder why that is?

Who are the best chefs in the world right now? And what are they doing that interests you?

That's a tough question to answer because we are not in a particularly creative period at the moment and much of what is happening revolves around chefs who are applying modern culinary technique to more traditional dishes. Given that proviso, I would say the chefs doing the best work today are Blaine Wetzel and Joshua Skenes in the US and Magnus Nilsson and Kobe Desramaults, before he closed In de Wulf, in Europe.

What are your guilty culinary pleasures?

I'm the son of a butcher and I am a sucker for a nice aged steak.

How will this era of fine dining be remembered?

Neo-classical.

And what will fine dining look in 20 years' time?

The food processor was the underpinning of the nouvelle cuisine movement and the water circulator and Pacojet played a similar role for molecular cooking. Whatever the kitchen manufacturers come up with next will shape the way people cook and eat.    

For the full list of winners, visit Opinionated about Dining.

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