British restaurants make up over a fifth of the world's best 50 establishments – double last year's showing – according to Restaurant magazine.

The rankings, which are decided by a panel of top chefs and critics for the London-based magazine, include 11 British restaurants.

The best restaurant in the world is The French Laundry, situated – ironically given current Franco-American feelings – in Napa Valley, California. Le Monde asked the unthinkable: ‘Is it possible the best French restaurant in the world is not in France?’

Gordon Ramsay’s self-titled London eatery takes the top British spot (placing fifth overall), but the rest of the capital’s haute cuisine is seen off by the tiny Merchant House restaurant, in Ludlow, Shropshire, in fourteenth place.

The Merchant House, a former Decanter Restaurant of the Year, has only seven tables, one waiter and one chef – proprietor Shaun Hill – and dinner will set you back a mere £40, a fraction of the price of other establishments.

Hill believes his high placing is due mainly to diners feeling comfortable and at ease in his cosy Jacobean dining-room and his success in getting the most out of a small setup.

‘It’s nice to get a pat on the head,’ he said. ‘It’s better than a kick in the backside which is also on offer sometimes.’

Other UK restaurants honoured are Gidleigh Park in Devon, Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye, Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, Nobu, the Ivy and the River Café in London. Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus is also listed, as is London restaurant The Square.

The top ten restaurants in the world according to the Restaurant list are:

1 French Laundry, California

2 El Bulli, Barcelona

3 Le Louis XV, Monaco

4 Jean Georges, New York

5 Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London

6 L’Arpege, Paris

7 Comme chez Soi, Brussels

8 Rockpool, Sydney

9 L’Ambroisie, Paris

10 Gramercy Tavern, New York

Written by Charles Williams30 April 2003