Branding the world’s 20 best restaurants

Alex Bigman

We’re interested in how branding and graphic design operate at the world’s highest bastions of taste, so we decided to have a peek at the web designs of the twenty restaurants that were named the world’s best in 2013.

The chefs that head these establishments take innovation and perfectionism to astounding levels, and in this regard they really function more like designers of food than like simple cooks. The question is, do they demand as much of their graphic designers — the people responsible for crafting the web page that for many would be the point of entry into one of the most exclusive dining rooms on earth?

Branding the world's 20 best restaurants - dom

A dish at D.O.M.: food on a plate, or a work of culinary design?

It varies. At some of these restaurants, the web design clearly takes a back seat to what really matters (it’s what is on the menu that counts, not the look of the menu itself). But for others, it is clear that the web page forms an important part of an overall aesthetic. The point of this post is not to knock the former, but to applaud the latter.

Without further adieu, the websites of the world’s 20 best restaurants in descending order (#1 – #20), with commentary on the top 10. Bon Appetit!

1. El Celler De Can Roca

El Celler De Can Roca

El Celler de Can Roca may be the best restaurant in the world, but the three brothers who run it clearly do not want to come off as snobs. The unpretentious website features them hanging out and grinning — a warm welcome indeed.

Location: Girona, Spain.
Michelin stars: 3
Design style: masculine, relaxed

2. Noma

Noma

Noma routinely ranks among the best restaurants in Europe because of its farm-to-table method that favors beautiful simplicity over unnecessary complexity. Its website, which hinges on a nice, laid back font and zero photography, is equally counter-ostentatious.

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Cost of juice serving: 600 Danish Kroner (~$110)
Design style: humble, Scandinavian minimal

3. Osteria Francescana

Osteria Francescana

Massimo Bottura’s menu is one of the most breathtakingly innovative you will find, but it is also committed to showcasing the culinary tradition of his native Italy. The website’s unusual grid structure reflects that structured but adventuresome spirit.

Location: Modena, Italy
Number of courses: 7 or 9
Design style: simple, elegantly structured

4. Mugaritz

Mugaritz

Located in the quiet countryside of northern Spain, Mugaritz marvelously expresses the culinary tradition of the Basque region. It’s website, however, is anything but quaint. With several pages sliding over one another left and right at every click, it is a tad disorienting. The food photographs are beautiful, but the site itself is somewhat overcooked.

Location: Errenteria, Spain
Most useful address: Longitude 1º 55’ 4’’ West; Latitude: 43º 16’ 22’’ North
Design: animated, rustic

5. Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

This New York food mecca, whose reputation has been ever on the rise since its establishment in 1998, has a stylishly elegant website built on contrasts: between light and dark, clean typography and complex cuisine, capped by an attractive logo design.

Location: New York, New York
Price per person: $225
Design: understated, regal

6. D.O.M.

D.O.M.

Renowned Chef Alex Atala was a D.J. and a self-described punk before pivoting into the restaurant business and launching D.O.M., his effort to save and celebrate Brazilian cooking. The website, though, too much prizes show over substance: an opening video first clogs your bandwidth, then oddly positioned — though certainly beautiful — photographs of food interrupt what you are trying to read.

Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Publication by the chef: “Com Unhas, Dentes e Cuca — Prática Culinária e Papo Cabeça ao Alcance de Todos”
Design: dramatic, self-aggrandizing

7. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Leave it to a Brit to name his restaurant based on wordplay. Chef Blumethal has as much of a love for linguistics as he does for food. The latter results in delicious fare, while the former seems to have guided a website that is as endearingly awkward as a Hugh Grant performance.

Location: London, England
Reservations accepted: 6 months in advance
Design: frumpy, literary

8. Arzak

Arzak

Arzak’s legacy may be over 100 years old, but its current incarnation could not feel more youthful and modern. The website declares Arzak as a home for vanguard cuisine right away, playing an intro video showing the arrangement of a bizarre, intriguing dish that literally glows. The whole site, bathed in color, prepares a visitor to expect a party, not a dining room — sensuousness, not stodginess.

Location: San Sebastian, Spain
Website intro music by: The XX
Design: maximal, nightlife-y

9. Steirereck

Steirereck

The dishes served at Steirereck look like alien ambassadors (the char in beeswax with yellow turnip pollen and cream has a truly otherworldly glow) but in fact they come straight from a nearby farm. There is unfortunately nothing so interesting about the website itself, which is looking rather outdated with its drop-shadowed thumbnails and faux-parchment background.

Location: Vienna, Austria
Collaboration: Chef Heinz Reitbauer has formed a co-operative with local farmers to source the produce he needs
Design: crowded, plain

10. Vendôme

Vendome

The three Michelin star-studded Restaurant Vendôme is perhaps the best in Germany. It is part of the Schloss Bensberg hotel, however, which means that it does not have a website of its own and all of its branding defers to that of the hotel. This leaves little to complain about, but also little to praise.

Location: Bergisch Gladback, Germany
Tasting menu price: 248 Euro (~$340)
Design: conservative, elegant

11. Per Se

Per Se

Location: New York, NY
Sister restaurant: The French Laundry (#47 on the list)
Design: stately, symphonic

12. Restaurant Frantzén

Restaurant Frantzen

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Formerly known as: Frantzén/Lindeberg
Design: media-heavy, emphatic

13. The Ledbury

The Ledbury

Location: London, England
Origin of chef: Australia
Design: simple, photo-centric

14. Astrid y Gaston

Astrid Y Gaston

Location: Lima, Peru
Current celebration: 20 year birthday
Design: regal, romantic

15. Alinea

Alinea

Location: Chicago, Illinois
The creative team: a chef, a finance whiz, a designer/sculptor, an architect, and interior designer
Design: artsy, gloomy

16. L’Arpége

L'Arpege

Location: Paris, France
Instead of table flowers: licorice sticks, ebony, cucurbits or gourds
Design: overly complex, gradients

17. Pujol

Pujol

Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Cause for pride: first Mexican restaurant to enter the top 20
Design: simple, refined

18. Le Chateaubriand

Le Chateaubriand

Location: Paris, France
Menu display: chalkboard
Design: confident, minimal

19. Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin

Location: New York, New York
Fish preparation options: almost raw, barely touched, lightly cooked
Design: breezy, uninspired

20. Narisawa

Narisawa

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Political ethos: environmentalist
Design: tasteful, dull

How do you think one should judge haute cuisine web design? Tell us in the comments!

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