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RESTAURANTS

French protest world’s ‘top restaurant’ rankings

The “world’s top 50 restaurants” of 2015 were named on Monday but France’s top eateries once again failed to make it into the top ten. That has led to accusations from within France that the awards are anti-French.

French protest world's 'top restaurant' rankings
Famed French chef Joel Robuchon, one of those who signed a petition against the World's Best Restaurant rankings. Photo: AFP

For the third consecutive year France has failed to see one of its best restaurants break into the top ten of the world's 50 best restaurants. 

The crown for the unofficial title of “World’s Best Restaurant” went to Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca at the awards ceremony run by trade magazine Restaurant.

The restaurant knocked Danish four-time winner “Noma” down to third place, with Italy's “Osteria Francescana” taking the second spot.

The top ten was rounded out by restaurants in Peru, the United States, Spain, Britain, Japan, Brazil and Thailand, but none from France.

For a country like France that prides itself on its famed gastronomy – which has been earned itself a cultural heritage status from Unesco – the results will once again not sit well in the stomachs of the country’s top chefs.

The closest France got to the top ten was Mirazur, located in the hilltop town of Menton in the Côte d’Azur, that was ranked 11th.

The Paris restaurant L’Arpège was ranked 12th.

READ ALSO: A closer look at the top five restaurants in France

Although there was some good news for France in that it had five restaurants in the top 50, which ranked it just behind Spain ,with seven and the United States with six.

But in a country that is home to the prestigious Michelin star awards, which have also been subject to scathing criticism, certain Gallic chefs and restauranteurs have criticized the methodology used to select the best restaurants.

An Internet petition against the competition amassed more than 350 signatures, including those of France's Joel Robuchon and Italy's Giancarlo Perbellini, calling for sponsors to boycott the “opaque” awards.

“The jury members, appointed by backroom politics, vote anonymously, without ever having to justify their choice of a restaurant or even to prove that they actually ate there!” the petition read.

The bulk of the complaints against the contest comes from France, which failed to make it into the top ten for the past three years and has never managed to win first prize.

French chef Xavier Denamur dismissed the wards as simple “communication” and told The Local they were no way to judge the quality of French gastronomy.

To respond to the criticism, a team from 50 Best travelled to Paris last month on a charm offensive.The jury is made up of 972 “independent experts” including food writers, chefs, restaurant owners and gourmets in 27 regions.

Jury members choose their seven favourite restaurants where they have eaten in the past 18 months.

Critics say the system is open to abuse since the jury do not have to offer physical evidence of having actually visited any particular restaurant.

Yet organizers hired the Deloitte consultancy firm to oversee the voting, and say jury members cannot vote on restaurants in which they have an interest.

 

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ECONOMY

‘Fully booked for a month’ – France’s bars and cafés prepare to reopen after six months of closure

France's bars, restaurants and cafés will finally be allowed to reopen on Wednesday after six months of closure. But with reduced capacity and a bad weather forecast, it's not be the reopening many were hoping for.

'Fully booked for a month' - France's bars and cafés prepare to reopen after six months of closure
Terraces will be able to reopen at a 50 percent capacity with a maximum of six people per table maximum (everyone must be seated). Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Wednesday, May 19th marks phase two of France’s reopening plan, which allows bars, restaurants and cafés to open up their outdoor areas only.

IN DETAIL France’s calendar for reopening 

All booked up

At Pipalottes, a restaurant in the 9th arrondissement, everyone is busy cleaning and getting the place ready for the big day. “We’re trying to make the most of the space on the terrace to be able to get everyone in, but we’re having to cancel some reservations,” said Maximilien, the owner whose terrace will accommodate 48 people. “We’re trying our best to keep everyone happy.”

On Wednesday, large terraces can reopen at a 50 percent capacity with a maximum of six people per table (everyone must be seated), and the curfew will be shifted from 7pm to 9pm. Indoor spaces will reopen on June 9th, when the curfew will be shifted to 10pm.

A ten minute walk away is Sausalito, a wine bar and restaurant that is also fully booked for Wednesday and Thursday night. “We’ve been booked up for the 19th for about a month,” said the owner, Antoine.

He is looking forward to reopening but like many business owners, he hopes this will be the final reopening. “I know that in the UK they are getting worried about the Indian variant, so we need to be careful and play by the rules. We’re crossing our fingers that we will be able to stay open all summer.”

“Parisians love having a drink on a terrasse. Six months without terraces is far too long. It’s just a pity that the weather isn’t great,” added Antoine.

Bad weather forecast

Others aren’t so optimistic, with storms and heavy rain forecast for much of the country.

“I think we’ll have our usual customers who will at least pop in for a drink,” says Alex, the owner of Source Infinie, a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement, which currently has 30 tables facing the street. “But we definitely won’t have the same amount of people we would have if we had good weather.” 

READ ALSO: Storms, rain and strong winds forecast for week France’s café terraces reopen

It’s bad news for François, the owner of Le Bistrot de Madeleine in the 9th arrondissement, who can expand capacity from 14 to 40 if the weather is good enough.

“It’s a real problem, because if it rains I can only seat people in this area,” he says gesturing at the space covered by a blue awning.

“We’ll open on the 19th, it’s important and we are looking forward to seeing our customers again. But we might have to close on some days if the weather is bad, and it’s not worth it for us if we can only serve 12 or 14 people,” he said.

“We are very dependent on the weather. But we are also very happy to be able to reopen, so we’ll have to take it one day at a time,” he said.

Social distancing and strict rules on capacity 

The capital’s bars and restaurants were allowed to stretch their outdoor terraces onto the pavement or the street last summer to allow more outdoor socialising, and these changes have been extended until at least June 2021 – after which they will have to be paid for.

Sausalito is one of the many businesses to have set up a terrance made from wooden pallets in what would usually be taken up by parked cars. “At some point we will have to pay for it, but we don’t know when yet.” said the owner, Antoine. 

Asia, the owner of Les Jolies Mômes in the 9th, has benefited from this measure, which means she can spread out her tables for 50 customers and maintain social distancing more easily. “We are lucky enough to be on a small pedestrian square, and the increased terrace space means we can follow the health restrictions.”

Large terraces will only be allowed to fill up half their space on Wednesday, but last week government officials announced that establishments with small terraces will not be subject to this rule – as long as social distancing measures are followed.

“We will make sure to keep around 1m between tables, but we haven’t been given any precise indications,” said François.

READ ALSO: Paris to keep its expanded outdoor café terraces until summer 2021

Serving food outside

The risk of bad weather, reduced number of tables and the curfew at 9pm makes it very difficult for some restaurants to serve food.

Source Infinie has decided to wait until June 9th, when aside customers being able to sit indoors, the curfew will be shifted to 10pm. “We are a restaurant, but since we are not able to welcome customers inside, and only have 50 percent of the space on our terraces, we’ve decided we’ll only be serving drinks for the time being,” says Alex, the restaurant’s director. 

“It’s far too expensive for the number of customers are allowed to seat, especially with the weather we have at the moment,” he said. “We’ll try to do our best, but I think we’ll have to be patient and unfortunately, even if people are looking forward to eating out again, we won’t be going back to normal straight away.”

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