Lists like this tend to be self-perpetuating vortexes. The people that vote are also the kind of people that eat at restaurants already on the list. The list feeds on itself, burps itself up and envelops other food tourists in its hazy garlic breath. Lists have darlings, they are voracious, they ghost, they are hungry for new blood – is it silly or admirably broad that a list of 50 goes to 120? If a list were a person, they’d be a hair-flicking bully with a killer smile.
Melbourne hosted the World’s 50 Best awards in 2017 after Tourism Australia bought the event for $800,000. That investment wasn’t just for the cork-popping sheen of the ceremony. It was to get international food influencers into Australian restaurants so they would vote for them, write about them, and attract more visitors in their wake. It hasn’t worked in terms of 50 Best cachet but tourism is on the up and at least it’s fun to drink champagne.
There can be material outcomes to the World’s 50 Best. In 2014, Shewry told The Age that being included on the list for the first time “was like a lightbulb being switched on – thousands of new customers descended upon us”. I believe it because I’ve spent my own money at restaurants because they ranked and because Attica is always dotted with 50 Best tourists, some of whom tick off listed restaurants with the same joy they’d strike mould spray off a shopping list.
Will being 84 not 20 on the list make a difference to Attica? Yes, probably, but only to the length of the waiting list. Attica will still be full. And if the diners that do go are there to take the restaurant on its own terms and not just to notch it up, then it’s a win all around.
Dani Valent reviews Attica in this weekend’s Sunday Age.