Central, in Lima, uses only ingredients sourced from Peru on its menu.

Courtesy of World’s 50 Best Restaurants

A South American restaurant has won the top prize in the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the first time. The accolade was announced in Valencia, Spain, on June 20.

The top restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is Central in Lima, Peru. It’s helmed by married chefs Virgilio Martinez and Pía Léon and focuses on modern Peruvian fare. Each course uses endemic ingredients found at a specific elevation (meaning all the elements of one dish were grown at 10 meters below sea level and another incorporates only components from above 3,750 meters). Some recent menu items have included a dish called “Diversity of Corn,” which used corn, ginger, honey, and tumbo (all grown at 2,010 meters), and “Close Fishing,” using octopus, seaweed, and squid.

“Central tells the story of its country, its produce and its extraordinary biodiversity in a menu structured by altitude, with dishes based on ingredients sourced from beneath sea level in the Pacific to those from high up in the Andes mountains, taking in fertile valleys and the Amazon rainforest in-between,” said William Drew of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. “Its dishes are also grounded in the work done by its research arm, Mater Iniciativa, led by Malena Martínez, which researches indigenous ingredients, the culinary heritage of the land and the properties of the myriad plant, herb, animal and vegetable species found within Peru. Of course, the culinary team – led by Virgilio Martínez and Pía León – execute these dishes in technically and artistically sophisticated ways, all aided by warm hospitality and a delicious drinks program.”

Disfrutar, a Mediterranean seafood restaurant from Barcelona, came in second, making it the top European restaurant. Two other Spanish restaurants, Diverxo in Madrid and Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo, were named third and fourth best, respectively. Alchemist, from Copenhagen, took fifth.

The United States had a soft performance on this year’s list. New York City’s Atomix, a Korean tasting menu eatery, appeared at number eight (in 2022, the restaurant was listed at number 33). The only other U.S. restaurant to make the top 50 was the French seafood place Le Bernardin, also in New York City. It was awarded 44th place.

Central chefs Pía Léon and Virgilio Martinez

Courtesy of World’s 50 Best Restaurants

In 2019, the organization instituted a rule change that removes previous winners from future lists, which is why restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen (which won in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2021), Geranium in Copenhagen (2022’s winner), and Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy (winner in 2016 and 2018) don’t make the roundup.

How its global list (and others, like the recently announced North America’s 50 Best Bars) gets assembled is something of a mystery. According to the company, 1,080 voters (a mix of chefs, food writers, and “well-traveled gourmets”) select 10 restaurants they consider to be the best they’ve visited. Often that means the list is centered around fine-dining restaurants in Europe and North America. The highest-ranking restaurants in the Middle East and Asia were Tresind Studio in Dubai and Odette in Singapore, which came in at numbers 11 and 14, respectively. Not a single restaurant in Africa or Australia made the list.

Still, for travelers who plan their trips around tasting menus, it’s an exciting list. For those who can’t get a reservation at Central, there are other options. Léon, one half of the partnership behind Central, helms a second restaurant, Kjolle, in Lima, which debuted on the list this year at number 28. Martinez, the other half of Central, also has a second restaurant, Mil, near Cusco, which hasn’t yet ranked on the global 50 Best Restaurants list, but was named the 44th best restaurant in Latin America in 2022.

The best restaurants in the world in 2023 are:

Central, LimaDisfrutar, BarcelonaDiverxo, MadridAsador Etxebarri, Atxondo, SpainAlchemist, CopenhagenMaido, LimaLido 84, Gardone Riviera, ItalyAtomix, New York CityQuintonil, Mexico CityTable by Bruno Verjus, ParisTrèsind Studio, DubaiA Casa do Porco, São PauloPujol, Mexico CityOdette, SingaporeLe Du, BangkokReale, Castel di Sangro, ItalyGaggan Anand, BangkokSteirereck, ViennaDon Julio, Buenos AiresQuique Dacosta, Dénia, SpainDen, TokyoElkano, Getaria, SpainKol, LondonSeptime, ParisBelcanto, LisbonSchloss Schauenstein, Furstenau, SwitzerlandFlorilège, TokyoKjolle, LimaBoragó, SantiagoFrantzén, StockholmMugaritz, San Sebastian, SpainHiša Franko, Kobarid, SloveniaEl Chato, BogotaUliassi, Senigallia, ItalyIkoyi, LondonPlénitude, ParisSézanne, TokyoThe Clove Club, LondonThe Jane, AntwerpRestaurant Tim Raue, BerlinLe Calandre, Rubano, ItalyPiazza Duomo, Alba, ItalyLeo, BogotaLe Bernardin, New York CityNobelhart & Schmutzig, BerlinOrfali Bros Bistro, DubaiMayta, Lima, PeruLa Grenouillėre, La Madeleine-Sous-Montreuil, FranceRosetta, Mexico CityThe Chairman, Hong Kong Bailey Berg Bailey Berg is the associate travel news editor at AFAR, where she covers breaking news, trends, tips, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. When not interviewing sources or writing articles, she can be found exploring art galleries, visiting craft breweries, hiking with her dogs, and planning her next adventure (at present, she’s been to 75+ countries and hopes to spend time in every one someday).