23 SA Restaurants make it onto the 50BEST Discovery restaurant and bar list, but does it really mean anything?



It is the season of Restaurant Awards and accolades, and the newest one is 50 BEST Discovery, launched just two weeks ago by the World’s 50 Best, a credible ranked list of the best restaurants in the world. In total, 27 South African establishments appear on this new list, of which 23 are restaurants, ten in Cape Town, and with some strange inclusions. I had to ask myself what this is all about, reading the motivation for and description of this newest accolade.

From the 50BEST Discovery page on the World’s 50 Best website, the following description is provided under a heading ‘Selection Criteria’, sounding very much like the blah-blah which Eat Out published last week after The Test Kitchen resigned from its Awards: 

50 Best Discovery, an exciting database for eating and drinking, operates as an extension of the annual 50 Best rankings of restaurants and bars. The venues featured on 50 Best Discovery have all received votes from the experts who create the rankings of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and The World’s 50 Best Bars, as well as Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Asia’s 50 Best Bars and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. The digital collection is compiled from the results of these five annual 50 Best rankings but extends far beyond the elite establishments celebrated in each list. The result is a more diverse range of expert-recommended restaurants and bars across the world, offering everything from emerging talent and local favourites through to fine dining and fine drinking establishments.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy comprises more than 1,000 international restaurant industry experts, with a 50/50 gender split. The Academy is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and well-travelled gourmets across the globe. The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy comprises more than 500 international drinks experts, including bar owners and bartenders, drinks writers and cocktail aficionados.

To qualify for 50 Best Discovery, a restaurant or bar needs to receive a significant number of votes in the most recent round of polling for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants or The World’s 50 Best Bars or feature on one of our annual regional rankings. 50 Best is ultimately responsible for the curation of the database. Restaurants and bars cannot apply to be part of 50 Best Discovery.


In the three paragraphs above I see no selection criteria!  Many criticise the World’s 59 Best Restaurant list for having no anonymous tasters or restaurant evaluation, it purely being a list of favourite restaurants of its panel members around the world. I deduce that this could be a list of restaurants bubbling under, potentially making the World’s 50 Best Restaurant or Bar List in future.  

I am sceptical about this new 50BEST Discovery List:

  1.  Mixing a Restaurant and Bar List is insane! 
  2. The word ‘Discovery’ implies new  hidden gems, but none of the South African restaurants or bars are brand new, to my knowledge.  
  3. The description of each establishment is just that, including pricing, location, and contact details, not a motivation of why it made this list 
  4. It contains errors, with The Restaurant at Waterkloof appearing both in the Cape Town and Somerset West lists!
  5. Belly of the Beast, Est Est Alea, Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, and Upper Bloem are hardly top-level restaurants compared to the others on the list, based on local restaurant ratings. While Orangerie Restaurant at Le Lude in Franschoek has not been nominated for any awards, it is a restaurant operating under the radar, and complements the list of Franschhoek restaurants. 
  6. Discovery is a very strong brand name in South Africa, and of course not related to this accolade at all. It may confuse the local market.
  7. Using the 50BEST name it implies that this could be 50 Restaurants and bars only, but that is not correct as our country has 27 establishments on this list alone.
  8. Last, but not least, it confuses the calibre of the World’s 50 Best List, on which The Test Kitchen is ranked, with this step sister 50BEST Discovery List. 


The South African 50BEST Discovery List is the following, with some surprise inclusions: 

Belly of the Beast, Cape Town

Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia, Cape Town 

Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, Cape Town 

Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen, Cape Town 

The Pot Luck Club, Cape Town 

Greenhouse, Cape Town

La Colombe, Cape Town

FYN Restaurant, Cape Town

Upper Bloem, Cape Town

The Test Kitchen, Cape Town

The Shortmarket Club, Cape Town

Lucky Shaker, Durban 

Sin+Tax, Johannesburg

Mootee Bar, Johannesburg 

Grei, Johannesburg

Est Est Alea, Johannesburg

Restaurant Mosaic, Pretoria

Jardine, Stellenbosch 

Tokara in Stellenbosch

Overture, Stellenbosch

Eike by Bertus Basson, Stellenbosch  

Orangerie Restaurant at Le Lude, Franschhoek

La Petite Colombe, Franschhoek

Le Coin Français, Franschhoek 

Foliage in Franschhoek

Wolfgat in Paternoster

The Restaurant in Waterkloof, Somerset West 


Image: Orangerie at Le Lude 


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_ulmenstein

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