Feb 15, 2018
For some, travel is about finally seeing the sights they’ve read about for years (hello, the Colosseum). For others, it’s about ticking off once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Then there are those special adventurers who travel to places far, wide and obscure for the not-so-simple pleasure of tasting the world’s best food and wine.
With the chance to dine at one of the world’s top restaurants reason enough alone to head to Spain, France or Peru how do you score a seat when everyone else wants one, too? Read this guide to when and how to book a table and you'll nab a seat in no time.
Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA
This isn’t the place for a light meal – your options are an eight- to 10-course tasting marathon in the dining room or the five-course seasonal menu served in the bar area. Owner and head chef Daniel Humm has landed scores of accolades for his innovative dishes, with the restaurant named No. 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list in 2017. Expect perfection.
How to get a table: Reservations open at 9am New York time (1am AEST) on the first of each month for bookings in following month (so bookings for 1 to 30 April open on 1 March). Bookings can be made for up to six people at a time online. Set up a Tock account – required for booking – in the days before trying your lock in a table and do so through Google Chrome. The site reportedly works better with this browser.
Walk-ins are welcome in the bar, but there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait your turn.
Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
You have to be quick with your mouse to secure a table at this innovative restaurant – understandable given it has three Michelin stars. Massimo Bottura’s incredibly considered dishes aim to capture a feeling as much as a taste – we all know the crisp edge of the lasagne is the best part and Bottura captures that with that aptly named dish, The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna.
How to get a table: Booking inquiries open up three months in advance on the first working day of the month (June reservations open on 1 March at 10am Italian time – 8pm AEST –; exact release dates are available on the website). March and April reservations are normally released at the start of December.
A restaurant representative says the availability for the entire month is normally gone within an hour and tables for Friday and Saturday nights are gone within 10 minutes. A recommendation to improve your chances is trying for a table at the beginning of the week.
Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
If you’d journey all the way to Thailand for Indian food, you’re not alone – Gaggan receives 500 booking requests a day and has a team of four dedicated to managing them. Ensconced inside a two-story colonial home, the team plates up Indian food you definitely won’t find at the takeaway down the street: the menu is written entirely in emojis with the names and ingredients only revealed at the end of the meal.
How to get a table: You’ll need to make a booking inquiry at least one month in advance via the website, including your preferred date and number of guests (you can book for a maximum of six people at a time). That said, there’s a wait list of four to five months so it pays to inquire as early as possible and to have a few dates handy.
Owner Gaggan Anand last year announced he plans to close Gaggan in 2020 – he believes that restaurants should have a 10-year life – so there’s only limited time left to snag a table.
Attica, Melbourne, Australia
Vegetarians, rejoice – one of the best restaurants in Australasia does a completely vego tasting menu so you too can experience Ben Shewry’s skills with native ingredients. Key courses include All Parts of the Pumpkin and Whipped Emu Egg with Quandong. There’s substantial crossover with the regular menu but carnivores get to indulge in dishes such as Grilled Marron with Desert Lime and Mutton Shell.
How to get a table: Bookings open on the first Wednesday of each month at 9am AEST for three months in advance, i.e. bookings for June open on 7 February. Exact dates are available on Attica’s website. The private dining room opens for bookings six months ahead.
Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain
This is Spanish cooking at its finest. Little embellishment is added to the grilled dishes as each stands alone as an example of the chefs’ flawless cooking methods – take an oyster served in its shell, for example, or simple slices of homemade, perfectly spiced chorizo. About an hour away from the dining hub of Bilbao, this grill in rural Spain is a must for anyone who considers themselves a gourmand.
How to get a table: It only seats 30 people at a time so you’ll have to plan well ahead to snag a table. Bookings for two to six people open 120 days in advance, subject to availability.
To guarantee a reservation, each person must purchase a €100 “ticket” at the time of booking, which is deducted from the final bill. Changes need to be made 15 days before your reservation.
Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
Adventurous is an understatement. You don’t so much eat lunch at Mugaritz as you settle in for an afternoon of eating 20 to 25 dishes that seem like foods you’ve eaten before but are something quite different. Some plates, such as 2017’s Apple Compote in its Skin, give away exactly what you’re about to experience. Others, including An Oyster’s Frozen Kiss and Toasted Stew of Spring Tears, give little away. Uncovering what they actually involve is half the fun.
How to get a table: Reservations for the year ahead generally open each (northern hemisphere) autumn – 2018 bookings opened in October 2017 and are still open now. The restaurant recommends you make a booking at least two to three months in advance, which can be done via the website or by calling between 10am and 6pm Monday to Saturday.
Keep in mind Mugaritz is closed for several weeks for a “creativity period”. This year’s season is from 11 April to 9 December.
Image: Mugaritz, Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria
Maido, Lima, Peru
Lima has quickly become a culinary destination for in-the-know food lovers. Maido, helmed by Mitsuharu Tsumura, is the best of the best of Nikkei cuisine, which fantastically fuses Peruvian and Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques. It’s shot steeply up the World’s 50 Best List, from number 44 in 2015 to number eight in 2017.
How to get a table: Head to the website 60 days in advance to book your table. Its platform allows you to check availability in real time; if the date and time you’re after isn’t up for grabs, it will offer you alternatives or offer to add you to the waiting list. Confirmation is via email.
El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
Run by the Roca brothers, this highly acclaimed Spanish restaurant has twice been named as the world’s top restaurant and currently sits at number three – an hugely impressive feat for a three-decades old establishment. It’s been at the forefront of avant-garde cuisine for years, thanks in part to the fact that each of the three brothers has a different speciality: food, desserts and wine.
How to get a table: Reservations are accepted up to 11 months in advance, with a new month opening up at midnight on the first day of each month. Bookings are currently open until 31 January 2019. There’s a waitlist if there aren’t any openings on the date you’re seeking.
Bookings are made through the website but questions or changes to previously confirmed bookings can be done via phone or email.
Steirereck, Vienna, Austria
The setting is as modern as the food at this two-Michelin-star restaurant: just look for the enormous glass cube in the middle of Stadtpark. You’ll have to get your strudel fix elsewhere, as the focus here is vegetables and seafood. The six- or seven-course tasting menu, which is paired with wines, includes carefully constructed dishes such as chervil root paired with truffle and fermented asparagus or Arctic char in blood orange and quinoa.
How to get a table: Reservations for up to six people can be made three months in advance via the website. You’ll need to call the listed number if you’ve got a group of seven or more. Dinner dates seem to disappear faster than lunch so go for the afternoon meal for a greater chance of securing a spot.
Central, Lima, Peru
Central has earned its position as No. 1 restaurant in Latin America by not only plating up 17 incredible courses for every diner but by its dedication to educating people on Peruvian cuisine and ingredients. The menu follows a trajectory from below the sea (sea snails, mussels and limpet) to thousands of metres above it (pork with black mashwa tubers and kaniwa). Even the water is bottled onsite after going through a reverse-osmosis process for a crystal-clear glass.
How to get a table: Reservations are taken via the online booking system for four-month periods, with bookings open from one month prior to the next period, e.g. bookings for May to August open on 26 March. Its booking system clearly shows which days are open to you and which will require you to go on the waiting list.
Top Image: Osteria Francescana