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.
Mirazur, Menton, France
The current world number one restaurant is also the proud owner of three Michelin stars for its focus on fresh seafood and vegetables. The Mirazur Unvierse menu will set you back around $420 but the Eveil des Sens menu available at lunch Thursday through to Saturday in from September to May is a mere $260.
How to get a table: Start planning for 2021 – the restaurant is booked solid for 2020. Bookings for 2021 open on 1 September next year. You can add yourself to the waiting list online or by calling the restaurant between 9am and 11.30am and 3pm and 6.30pm.
Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
There are three seasons at Noma: Vegetable Season (summer to fall), Game & Forest Season (15 October to 21 December) and Seafood Season (8 January to 13 June). Each involves a complete transformation of the menu to highlight the produce at its peak; for example, right now, you can expect to dine on goose, berries, mushrooms and maybe even a leg of moose or reindeer tongue.
How to get a table: Bookings are currently open online for Game & Forest Season and Seafood Season. Full payment is required when you book, and you can secure a table for between two and eight guests (demand for smaller tables is higher).
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 two months ahead on the first of each month (i.e. March 2020 bookings are available from 1 January) at 4pm (11am AEST).
To guarantee a reservation, each person must purchase a €198 “ticket” at the time of booking, which is deducted from the final bill. Changes need to be made 15 days before your reservation.
Central, Lima, Peru
Central has earned its position as one of Latin America's best 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 (bookings for January 2020 through to April open on 25 November). Its booking system clearly shows which days are open to you and which will require you to go on the waiting list.
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 in fact 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 – 2020 bookings are 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”. The 2020 season is from 1 April to 29 November.
Image credit: Mugaritz, Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria
Arpège, Paris, France
Vegetables are the hero at this iconic French restaurant. Head chef Alain Passard announced the restaurant would go entirely green in 2001 and though there are now a few meaty items back on the menu, veggies are still the main focus. Any dish that feautures white asparagus or black truffle is so sought-after that tables are often booked months in advance to be the first to try.
How to get a table: Arpège is only open Monday to Friday – no long weekend lunches here. Bookings are currently open for lucnh and dinner up until 12 November 2020 online.
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 number 10 on the 2019 World’s 50 Best List.
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.
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 the following month (so bookings for 1 to 28 February open on 1 January – though bookings through to the 31 December holiday period are open right now). Bookings can be made for up to 10 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. Go between 5 and 5.30pm on a weekday to minimise your time in line.
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 (e.g. May 2020 reservations open on 3 February at 10am Italian time (8pm AEST); exact release dates are available on the website). March and April 2020 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. Try for a table at the beginning of the week to increase your chances.
Attica, Melbourne, Australia
The intriguingly named courses at one of the best restaurants in Australasia include Happy Little Vegemite and a Black Ant Lamington; all showcase Ben Shewry’s skills with native ingredients.
How to get a table: Bookings open on the first Wednesday of each month at 9am AEST for three months in advance. Exact dates are available on Attica’s website. Booking for four or more is allegedly easier than scoring a table for two.
The private dining room opens for bookings six months ahead.
This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.