In late April, San Pellegrino announced its list of the 50 Best Restaurants of the World. The rankings had some foodies holding their breath and others rolling their eyes.

Like Michelin stars and Zagat votes, San Pellegrino nods can make an eatery’s reputation. But are they worth their salt?

jennydowningCopenhagen’s Noma is the heir ascendant, taking the top spot from 2009 winner and Spanish icon, El Bulli. Noma has been hailed for celebrating uniquely Scandinavian flavours with pride and panache.

The UK’s Fat Duck placed third, while two other Spanish institutions (El Celler de Can Roca and Mugartiz) rounded out the top five.

But are these rankings meaningful for foodies the world over?

Our community of food mavens has been mulling the value of the awards, wondering if they can be trusted and if they hold any relevance for the average diner.

Thorn Tree member strauss1944 puts the question in sharp relief, asking, ‘Do food critics and journos that are involved live in the same gastronomic world as I do? Do you have to be a real whacko to win this award? This year’s winner serves up a dish that contains edible soil!’

Eating dirt, eh? Is it a cheeky cultural statement? A primal shot of mud-pie nostalgia? Or does it just taste good?

In another thread, member Myanmarbound says, ‘I think these lists are good for sparking a nice bit of controversy and are a nice bit of publicity for all concerned but don’t really tell you very much. As with comments you can find elsewhere on the internet, Asia and especially Japan seem under-represented. You have to wonder at the qualifications of some of the panel chairs.’

Have you been to any of the top 50? Do they live up to the hype?

And if you were putting together a similar list, would your criteria be the same? Or is there something we’re missing when these restaurants are badged as the 50 best in the world?

[Image: Jenny Dowling/Flickr]