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Le Bernadin: Is This New York City’s Best Restaurant?

You may remember that, back in May, we brought you the full list of all NYC restaurants awarded a Michelin star for 2021

With over 60 new additions to the Michelin guide across New York, it’s clear that the city that never sleeps certainly knows exactly how to eat. However, whilst the restaurants awarded one or two Michelin stars (still a fantastic achievement) are all in good company, only one restaurant received the coveted three-star rating this year – 51st Street’s Le Bernadin

Since its opening back in 1986, Le Bernadin has long-delighted diners from across New York and beyond. The idea behind its creation was a simple one – to serve the freshest, highest-quality seafood, prepared with love and care. The restaurant’s owners were Parisian sibling duo Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze, who had opened their flagship branch of Le Bernadin back in their home city to widespread acclaim in 1972. Having picked up a string of awards, the pair decided that opening to a new audience in New York City was the natural next step. 

The restaurant was an instant hit, with the New York Times awarding Le Bernadin a four star rating just three months after they opened their doors – to this day, they’ve never dropped a single one of those stars. 

Following the unexpected death of Gilbert Le Coze in 1994, Le Bernadin’s future was briefly thrown into question. However, keen to ensure that her brother’s legacy lived on within the restaurant that they had so lovingly created, Maguy Le Coze decided to enlist the help of Gilbert’s close friend Chef Eric Ripert. 

Ripert had been working within the kitchen at Le Bernadin for some time, mentored by Le Coze in the years before his death. Like Le Bernadin’s owners, Ripert approached his work with one mantra in mind – that the fish is the star of the plate and must be prepared with utmost care and attention. It’s a mantra that has served them well in the years since. 

In the years following Ripert’s appointment as Head Chef, Le Bernadin has gone from strength to strength, having been awarded no shortage of coveted accolades over the years and well and truly cementing their reputation as one of New York’s must-have fine dining experiences – in fact, Le Bernadin currently sits at No. 36 on the World’s Best Restaurants list

Their most outstanding achievement to date, however, is their most recent – the aforementioned three-star rating in this year’s Michelin guide. Like their New York Times rating, we’re sure that it’s a precedent that they intend to keep for years to come. 

It’s true that a visit to Le Bernadin has certainly looked many different ways over the years – their most extensive refurbishment was carried out in 2011 and included the addition of a brand new lounge, which carries its own exclusive menu. However, their mission to serve simple seafood dishes of the finest quality has stayed with the team behind Le Bernadin throughout. 

Whilst simplicity is certainly at the core of the menu, that’s not to say that the dishes aren’t each incredibly vibrant in their own way. The Chef’s Tasting menu – perhaps the most popular and consistently adored part of Le Bernadin’s culinary output – features dishes based around tuna, caviar, langoustine and, of course, lobster. Each dish is prepared carefully and cooked to perfection, paired with vegetables, sauces and garnishes that tie the individual tastes together impeccably. 

Whilst seafood is certainly the star at Le Bernadin, Ripert and his team have also worked over the years to put together a delectable vegetarian menu for those who do not consume animal products, as well as a range of delightful desserts, which each act as the perfect follow-up to the dishes on offer. There has also been clear time, thought and effort invested into creating an exceptional wine menu, with each new pairing working harmoniously alongside the award-winning food. 

The lounge menu is no afterthought, offering its own selection of beautifully and thoughtfully designed seafood dishes. Guests who do not wish to book a full dinner reservation at Le Bernadin can experience the more laidback side of the restaurant, where scallops, oysters, lobster rolls and organic Scottish salmon are all available to taste. Again, the drinks are recognised as an equally important part of the experience overall – Le Bernadin’s cocktail menu has been crafted with their cuisine in mind, each drink prepared by a professionally-trained mixologist. 

Given Le Bernadin’s status as the fine-dining spot in New York City, you’d imagine that Eric Ripert feels immense pressure when it comes to maintaining this position as more and more restaurants open up across Manhattan. However, Ripert tries to ignore such pressure and simply keep his core mission in mind. 

“What I’m thinking is not about stars or awards, but what I’m supposed to do as a chef, what I need to get done in the kitchen and the restaurant,” Ripert told Foodian

“If you work hard and do the best you can, maybe one day you could get three Michelin stars. I believe that if you obsess over something, it won’t come to you.”

Ripert went on to describe his commitment to developing his skills, even after decades working within the culinary world. 

“When I go home at night I ask myself, ‘Did I work well today? Can I do it better tomorrow?’ Even today, I’m still learning and that will never stop until the last day of my life.”

After a difficult year for the hospitality industry, iconic restaurants across New York City are preparing to make a full return, the driving team behind each establishment aiming to come back even better than before. It’s clear that this is a goal that Ripert and his team at Le Bernadin are more than capable of achieving. 

Ask anyone in New York with experience in fine dining and they will likely affirm that Le Bernadin is, indeed, the city’s best restaurant – and we implore you to book and table and discover this for yourself.

Diners can book a table at Le Bernadin on their official website.