For many, food is a pleasant side issue when booking a holiday. Sun, sea and sand naturally tend to take priority. Thoughts of pasta, paella and pad Thai come later. But what if in 2024 you wanted to mix things up and orient your holiday around a special meal in one of the best restaurants in the world? Is it even possible?
To find out, Telegraph Travel delved into the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants and found the next available table at each, taking into account the booking fees required to reserve a seat.
What we found is that credit card liabilities are predictably (and understandably) high, but availability at many of the world’s best restaurants is surprisingly good. Many have plenty of free tables in the spring and summer, and some offer space as soon as the following week. However, a small minority is fully booked indefinitely.
Here’s everything you need to know about grabbing a table at one of the world’s best restaurants on your next vacation.
You need a credit card (with sufficient balance)
When you reserve a table at a top restaurant, you will typically be charged a credit card deposit based on the number of customers on the booking.
Sometimes that set amount is deducted from your final bill, or it is held but never touched; However, if you cancel close to the day of the booking, that amount may be debited from your account. Some restaurants charge a fee if you cancel within 24 hours of your reservation, while others have a stricter 72-hour cancellation policy.
Of the world’s 50 top restaurants, 36 asked for credit card details, six allowed a booking without card details, and the other eight were temporarily closed, not accepting bookings or requiring email correspondence to book. The average credit card liability of those who charged was £133.50 per head or £267 for two.
The largest booking obligation is at Frantzén, Stockholm. At the time of booking you agree to pay 4,800 SEK (£363) per person for the set menu. If you do not show up for your reservation or cancel within 72 hours, your credit card will be charged per guest. For a couple this amounts to €726.
The other restaurants with high credit card liabilities include Diverxo, Madrid (€790/£674 for two); Alchemist, Copenhagen (6,000 DKK/£686 for two); Gaggan Anand, Bangkok (THB28,248/£624 for two) and Hiša Franko, Kobarid, Slovenia (€650/£555 for two).
The minority that doesn’t need any card data at all
If you don’t like the idea of spending many hundreds of dollars on a table reservation, you may want to consider one of the following options. Of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World, we were able to reach the reservation point without entering the card details for Pujol, Mexico City; Le Du, Bangkok; Steirereck, Vienna; Elkano, Getaria, Spain; and Rosetta, Mexico City. They will all be available in the coming months.
Easiest to grab a table
You may assume that it is extremely difficult to make a reservation, but in our attempt we were able to find a table at more than half (27) of the 50 restaurants surveyed in February. For example, at Asador Etxebarri in Spain (number four on the list), lunch bookings were available on February 12. At Table by Bruno Verjus in Paris (10th on the list), dinner reservations are available on February 20.
Britain’s best restaurants are also good for same-month availability. Kol in London still had room for lunch on February 15. The other two British restaurants on the list also had availability this month: Ikoyi in London (dinner on February 28) and The Clove Club in London (lunch and dinner tables on February 15).
Obviously, these top restaurants are likely to fill up as spring and summer approach, so it’s wise to book further in advance if you’re visiting during peak season.
The most exclusive restaurants in the world
However, a number of restaurants had no availability at all. Telegraph Travel failed when trying to book a table at the highly experimental Alchemist in Copenhagen, Lido 84 in Italy, Atomix in New York City, Septime in Paris. Florilège in Tokyo and The Chairman in Hong Kong.
Increasingly, restaurants are adopting a Glastonbury-style ticketing system, with tables going live at a specific time or date each day. Alchemist in Copenhagen (which featured in the most recent series of BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals) only operates a waiting list system, with tickets issued every three months.
At Septime, in Paris, bookings are only available for the next 21 days and are available every day at 10am. The Chairman in Hong Kong is fully booked until June, and there is no option to book beyond that date yet (although it says any cancellations will be announced).
The restaurants you can book now
If you’re organized and act quickly, you can snag a seat at virtually any of the world’s best restaurants before summer. Number one on the list, Central in Lima, will be available from early June. Diverxo, Madrid (number three) will receive you from the beginning of May and Mugartiz, San Sebastian (number 31), can sneak you in at the end of April if you don’t take too much time. The longest wait of all, however, is Disfrutar in Barcelona (number two): the next booking we could find is for five people on February 5, 2025.
Three culinary holidays for 2024
If you’d rather leave the organizational details to someone else, here are three foodie holidays with availability this year.
Abercrombie + Kent has a seven-night Florence itinerary (departure dates May to October), including cooking classes, vineyard tours and exclusive wine and olive oil tastings. Prices from £4,995 (01242 386 464; abercrombiekent.co.uk)
Intrepid has a nine-day itinerary exploring Mexico’s famed culinary regions, markets of Oaxaca, taco tastings in Mexico City, and seaside classes on cooking fresh seafood. Prices from £1,512 (flights not included; 0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
Explore has a nine-day Taste of Morocco tour, visiting the souks of Rabat, Fes and Marrakech, with plenty of opportunities to sample street food and tagines, shop for fragrant spices and sip refreshing mint tea. Prices from £1,075 (flights not included; 01252 391 103; explore.co.uk).