A guide to the best restaurants in the world, as chosen by Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck.
Heinz Beck is one of Europe’s most respected three star Michelin chefs. From Germany, he moved to Rome in 1994 to take the helm at La Pergola. The only three Michelin starred restaurant in Rome, it is still overseen by Beck. He is also head chef of the elegant Michelin-starred Apsleys, A Heinz Beck Restaurant in The Lanesborough hotel in London, which opened in 2009. He tells John O’Ceallaigh about what it takes to create a good dining experience and names his selection of the best restaurants in the world.
When I go to a restaurant I don’t have a preference for fine-dining or a casual meal out. It all depends on the occasion and the company and sometimes I’m happy just to go to a pizzeria – there are plenty of good ones in Rome. What is important, however, is that you feel comfortable in the restaurant. The ambience should be relaxed and it should feel welcoming. If you’ve been out all day you need to feel at home in the restaurant, to feel that you can relax and won’t have to face any more stress. I don’t care about décor or whether the interior is classic or modern as long as the restaurant is warm, attractive and clean. I hate it when waiters spend all evening at the table trying to talk to you. Service should be precise and staff should be aware of their guests’ need before the guests are, but the guests shouldn’t notice them. A good waiter should be able to tell whether a customer wants to talk or not and should respond accordingly. It also annoys me when sommeliers just try to sell you their most expensive wines. Often sommeliers will have read books about wines but never sampled them. I think that’s the worst. A sommelier should have tasted the wines on the list, only then can he give you the right recommendation. And it goes without saying that, wherever you go, the cuisine should be excellent.
Jean-Georges; New York, America
I went here last year, in October, and the company was fantastic – I was with my chefs, rather than my wife. (I like eating with her of course but I don’t often have the chance to eat with my chefs so it was a nice change.) The chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten is French and so is the cuisine, but it mixes in American and Asian influences. It’s an interesting combination and the restaurant has three Michelin stars. Fish is a speciality here and I remember the flavours being especially intense – that’s what stood out for me the most. As for the restaurant itself, it’s in the Trump building with huge windows overlooking Central Park – it’s bright, airy, clean and very chic. The atmosphere was great too, although that’s partially because I was with my boys. It can be hard to get a table here so plan ahead. In fact, it was fully booked on the evening we wanted to dine but I introduced myself to the receptionist and told her Jean-Georges knows who I am. An hour later I got a call saying there was a cancellation and that we could be accommodated. Sometimes you get lucky.
D.O.M.; Sao Paulo, Brazil
I have to admit it’s been a few years since I ate at D.O.M. but it made a great impression on me. It’s one of the most famous restaurants in Brazil and that’s down to the chef, Alex Atala. His menu draws from local products so there’s plenty of locally sourced produce and even ingredients from the Amazon; you can sample roots and vegetables that are almost impossible to try elsewhere. It all feels fresh and contemporary and that’s complemented by service that’s very attentive without being overbearing. Of course, in Sao Paolo if you don’t have money you can’t eat somewhere like D.O.M. and it is expensive – but it’s well worth it. The clientele is well-heeled and wealthy but it doesn’t feel pretentious here; it’s a glamorous spot but people are here to have fun and because they love the food.
Residenz Heinz Winkler; Aschau, Germany
I trained here after Heinz bought the place in 1991 – mamma mia, time passes too quickly – and the place is very special to me. Heinz is my maestro and I still consider him one of the greatest chefs in the world. The restaurant is in Bavaria, with incredible mountain views and the setting is very beautiful. In winter it’s surrounded by snow and in summer it’s surrounded by flowers. Inside the atmosphere is cosy, with candles on the tables and a yellow and cream interior. It was here that I learned the importance of consistency, to ensure I maintained the same level of quality at all times. The quality of cooking is always excellent; Heinz has a restaurant in Munich with three Michelin stars and this one has two. Despite his German name, Heinz is Italian and the cuisine here serves classic German dishes but with an Italian influence and a focus on health. Heinz is the inventor of ‘cuisine vitale’ which combines Michelin-starred dining with consideration for wellbeing, so the food is healthy yet absolutely delicious.
L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joel Robuchon; Paris, France
This is a really gorgeous restaurant that feels decadent and luxurious with its dark red interiors. The cuisine is French, of course, and food is served in small portions and in quick succession. I like that, it’s fluid and easy. I know some people like ordering lots of small dishes so that they can share and discuss their choices but I don’t like sharing – if somebody eats food from my plate I have problems finishing what’s left over – but it’s actually a good place to visit if you’re dining alone. You can sit at the bar which looks right into the kitchen and perhaps talk to the man on the right or the woman on the left. Service is good too – professional but not too formal – and it’s worth sampling a couple of glasses of wine paired by their very talented sommelier.
I haven’t eaten in the Zuma restaurant in London yet but on a flight from Australia to Europe I had a layover in Dubai so dined here. The venue is beautiful. It’s a freestanding restaurant, so not in a hotel or anything like that, in the business area of Dubai and you have to see the space. It’s large, with a bar-lounge and restaurant; the clientele is glamorous and incredibly well dressed and a DJ plays so the atmosphere is electric. As you’d expect it’s not a fine-dining experience but the Japanese-European cuisine is good and it’s the kind of uncomplicated place you go to with friends to have a good time or when you have something to celebrate.
John O'Ceallaigh Telegraph.co.uk