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The best meals I ate in 2023

Last week I wrote about the best hotels I have stayed at in 2023.

I copped out, slightly, by only including hotels abroad because of the massive controversies that would ensue if I picked the best among Indian hotels.


But this week, I am going to bite the bullet. Here’s a list of the best meals I ate in India and the rest of the world. There are some obvious gaps though: you won't find Gaggan Anand on this list; nor will you find Manish Mehrotra. You already know what I think about the world’s two greatest Indian chefs.


   The restaurants are arranged by cuisine:




Massimo Bottura: He is the world's greatest Italian chef. But even masters do not function at their best when they cook in strange kitchens. So I was blown away by how good Massimo’s food was when he cooked at a pop-up at the Leela Palace, Delhi. Guests did not know this but Massimo had slipped and fallen the day before and the wound on his head required stitches.


   But nothing fazed him. He was there at the pass, checking each plate as it went out and going from table to table, chatting to guests.


   I hope he will turn his India visits into annual events; let’s see.


   Gucci Osteria In Florence is one of Massimo’s ventures. It is run by Takahiko Kondo, who was Massimo’s long-time aide at the flagship Osteria Francescana and by Karime Lopez who jointly create a unique blend of Italian, South American and Japanese cuisine. I have never eaten any food like this and it should soon get another Michelin star to add to the single star it already has.


   Americano is the best Italian restaurant in India. It continues to mingle influences from Chef Alex Sanchez’s American and Latin roots with the dishes he picked up while working with Italian menus on his travels through that country. I have never had a meal there that is less than wonderful.




Alain Ducasse is the King of Chefs so any restaurant run by him will astonish you with its flavours. I love Blue, the Ducasse restaurant in Bangkok where the chef is Wilfrid Hocquet who brings his own style and experience to complement Ducasse’s food. And I was blown away by the restaurant Ducasse runs at the Palace of Versailles.


   Many great chefs run their empires by forcing their chefs to reproduce their dishes. Ducasse, on the other hand, gives his chefs a broad framework, lets them add their own styles to the cooking and so, every Ducasse restaurant is brilliant but different.


   Gregoire Berger is the world's most under-recognised French Chef. The one Michelin star Ossiano at Dubai’s Atlantis holds is inadequate as a measure of his talent in the kitchen and the vastness of his imagination. He is one of the two greatest chefs — across countries — in the Middle East and more recognition will surely come his way.




Cote is now a mini-chain of Korean steakhouses and while I did not visit Korea this year, it was hard not be stunned by the excellence of the food at the New York outpost. It is not cheap but you get the sense that the money goes into the outstanding ingredients.




"Tresind Studio in Dubai is a two Michelin star restaurant that is proud of being Indian without any apologies or qualifications."

China Kitchen at Delhi’s Hyatt Regency remains my favourite Chinese restaurant because of the authenticity of the Chinese food (cooked by chefs from the mainland). On current form it is better than say, Bar Shu which popularised authentic Chinese food in London. There may well be better Sichuan restaurants in New York but the last time I had food this good was in Cheng Du.


Indian Street Food


The best street food is to be found on the street (natch!). But I love Soam in Mumbai and respect Swati, whose food remains a happy childhood memory for me. Mumbai is the only Indian city where street food in restaurants is terrific. In the rest of India, you have to hit the streets.


Modern Indian


Masque: I’ve never been sure which category to put Mumbai’s Masque in. But by the time Prateek Sadhu, the original chef, who let a stage at Noma influence his style left, it had improved a lot. Towards the end Prateek had found his own voice and now that his former assistant Varun Totlani has taken over, the food is more Indian and more joyful.


   Tresind Studio in Dubai is a two Michelin star restaurant that is proud of being Indian without any apologies or qualifications. Its chef Himanshu Saini is the true successor to the Gaggan-Manish generation and his food is to die for. I have never had a disappointing meal there.


   O Pedro and Bombay Canteen: are hard to categorise. My own favourite is O Pedro but Bombay Canteen honours the legacy of Floyd Cardoz and is well-respected. I have come around to the view that Chef Hussain Shahzad does not know how to cook a dish that is not delicious.




Jamavar: I have known Surendra Mohan for years but never did I imagine he would be able to create food as tasty as he does at the London Jamavar. If this branch of Jamavar was in India it would be one of the country’s best restaurants.


Hoppers: The combination of Karam Sethi, Renjith Sarathchandran and Karan Gokani has created a fun Sri Lankan-Malayali restaurant that is my first stop on each trip to London. It’s not expensive, it's always packed, the food is authentic and I absolutely love it.


Semma: This is the hottest, Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in New York from superstars Chintan Pandya and Roni Mazumdar who have given a free hand to the chef Vijaya Kumar. It is authentic South Indian food shorn of the upper caste influences that colour the food at some restaurants in India and despite the spicy flavours and the unfamiliarity of the dishes, New Yorkers just can’t get enough.




Lupa: I have no words to describe Manu Chandra’s new Bangalore restaurant. It has a gorgeous retro feel with state-of-the-art edgy food. It took my breath away and if you have one restaurant to go to in Bangalore, make it this one.


Farm Lore:  A hugely ambitious tasting-menu restaurant that draws ingredients from its farm in Bangalore. But actually, it would work even without the farm because the chefs are super-talented and hugely imaginative.


   Avartana is a restaurant I have seen grow from the very beginning. It was the brainchild of Ajit Bangera, the chef at the ITC Grand Chola and it only opened because his then General Manager Anil Chadha put his weight behind it. It redefined modern South Indian food and though Bangera has now retired and Chadha has moved up to run all of ITC Hotels, the new chefs (led by Nikhil Nagpal) have kept it flourishing.


   I include it among the openings because a Kolkata outpost has opened to much acclaim and a Mumbai outpost will open any day now. Delhi is next.



Posted On: 05 Jan 2024 11:40 AM
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