‘Pinnacle of gastronomy’: how Central became the world’s best restaurant in 2023

Flagship Lima restaurant of chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León is an ‘ode to Peru’

The food at Central is ‘insanely elaborate’
The food at Central is ‘insanely elaborate’
(Image credit: Jussi Puikkonen/Alamy Stock Photo)

After coming second place last year, Central restaurant in Peru’s capital city Lima has gone one step further by taking the No.1 spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 list.

The “flagship” restaurant of chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León was described by the awards organisers as an “ode to Peru”. Guided by its research arm, Mater Iniciativa, Central has “truly paved the way” in “celebrating” indigenous ingredients through “innovative dishes and warm hospitality”, said William Drew, director of content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. And the “commitment” to research and promotion of Peru’s “unique” biodiversity is “unmatched”.

Central “started from the bottom” when it first appeared at No.50 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013. But with its “influence” across Latin America “rising steadily”, ten years later it has become the first ever South American eatery to earn the title of the world’s best.

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Three restaurants in Spain – Disfrutar in Barcelona, diverXO in Madrid, and Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo – took positions two, three and four respectively on the 2023 list. And Alchemist in Copenhagen, Denmark, completed the top five.

KOL in London, a new entry at No.23, was the highest placed restaurant from the UK. While last year’s winner, Geranium in Copenhagen, has been elevated to the “Best of the Best” hall of fame.

Virgilio Martinez and Pía León

Virgilio Martinez and Pía León
(Image credit: Jussi Puikkonen/Alamy Stock Photo)

Central reviewed: what the food critics say

Born in 2008 from the “ingenious mind” of chef Martínez, Central’s philosophy has “evolved over the years”, said Alex Carter on Pursuitist. Pía León, who later became Martínez’s co-chef and spouse, joined the venture in 2009, “fortifying the foundations of the Central experience”. Now holding the “coveted title” of the world’s best restaurant, Central is “redefining the fine dining scene globally”. This is the “pinnacle of gastronomy”.

“I flew across an ocean and a continent” to eat at Central, said Gina Power, and the experience “was worth every single penny and every single minute of my journey”. Martínez takes diners on a “gastronomic tour” of Peru’s diverse ecosystems with Central’s tasting menu (which cost from £226 to £270 per person). “I was so overwhelmed by the experience” that, once the last course was finished and a few final chats ended, “I took a taxi back to where I was staying, retreated to my bed at 4.30 in the afternoon, and did not surface again till eight the next morning”.

While on vacation in Peru in 2017, I ate the “insanely elaborate” 17-course tasting menu at Central, said Ben Gilbert on Business Insider, and it was a “bizarre experience”. Dishes are often presented in “unique” ways and platings got “stranger” as the tasting menu progressed. “I don’t think I saw a plate once”, but “pretty much” everything I did eat was “delicious”. Central is an “experience as much as it’s a meal”. If you’re okay with “a bit of theatre”, are “willing to trust a kitchen to choose the meal for you”, and “don’t mind paying a slightly insane amount of money” for a single meal, I can’t suggest Central enough.

It can be “daunting” dining at a restaurant like this, said Lydia Halsey on Beau Monde Traveler. There are ingredients on the menu that “have never been heard of before” and guests “wouldn’t even realise the ingredients were edible”. But dining at Central is “not something to be feared”. This is an “avant-garde culinary experience” where you will be “transported” to the micro-climates of Peru purely through the “sense of taste”.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list

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