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It’s rare enough these days to find a restaurant that isn’t "walk-ins only" but sometimes even reservation-friendly restaurants can be difficult to secure a seat at the table.
How do you go about booking some of the world’s toughest reservations? Some of the most popular restaurants have year-long wait lists or complicated booking policies.
Sure, go through the usual stages: head to the restaurant’s website, email, call, go to a third party website, wait in line (or hire someone to wait in line for you). Sometimes the way in is knowing the restaurant's reservation methods, the dates and times that new tables are released, going in a bigger group (smaller tables are usually more popular) and being nice to the front-of-house staff can go a long, long way. Sometimes going for a lunch reservation over dinner can get you access.
If you’re traveling, hotel concierges can sometimes get those hard to find tables for you, and your credit card company may come with some dining perks, too. American Express leverages its relationships with the world’s top restaurants. The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express Centurion Card—as well as the business versions of both cards—all offer the Global Dining Collection benefit.
Here are a few restaurant-specific tips on how to snag a dinner spot better than at 11:00 p.m. on a rainy Monday night at some of the world's best restaurants. Don't share these tips too widely, now.
The 3-Michelin starred World’s Best Restaurant for 2019 may be out of the way in the south of France's Riviera but that doesn't mean bookings are more open than a busy city restaurant. Diners can reserve their spot up to a year in advance (there was currently reservations open for October 16 for a table of 2 at the time of writing), if no dates are available, consider coming with a bigger group of four or more (there are more larger tables available) or giving them a call to or sending an email to inquire about any openings.
Chef and pasta master, Missy Robbin's Italian spot in a former garage in Williamsburg consistently has lines snaking around the block every night for on the day walk-ins, which is also a way to get in but if waiting in line on the day doesn't sound appealing, call up and wait in the phone line at exactly 10:00 a.m. 28 days before you want to dine and you will be put through eventually. Don't skip out on the off-menu Old Fashioned gelato while you're there.
In general, the process for landing your Noma reservation is the same (and as difficult) as it has always been. For everything but the private dining room, bookings must be placed online. They can only be made in even numbers up to a party of eight, and your payment in full—which is still 2,250 Danish Krone (or about $353) per person, drink pairings not included—is due at the time of making the reservation. Reservations for "Game & Forest Season" will open July 2, 2019, at 4 p.m. CEST (that's 10:00 a.m. EST, 7:00 a.m. PST). You'll be put in an online queue often in the hundreds, and need to be ready to fill out the details quickly. Keep sticking with it and you'll get a spot.
Sushi Tetsu, London
This tiny 7-seat Japanese restaurant down a cobbled little alley in London's Clerkenwell neighborhood is so exclusive most probably haven't even heard of it. And the reservation rules are lengthy. You have two options. First, place a call at 11:00 a.m. on two designated Mondays each month as stated on their website (they only take reservations via phone). If that doesn't get you through (tables go very, very fast) then add yourself to the waitlist and keep a notification on their Twitter page solely used for their cancellations, once they post, reply quickly.
Mesa 1, Punta de Mita, Mexico
Walk through a jungle, to a bridge submerged in water and you reach Mesa 1, the exclusive restaurant at W Punta de Mita. It is accessible only via steppingstones that emerge from the water then disappear once guests have taken their seats at the dinner table. To add to the exclusivity, Mesa 1 has only one seating per night, where diners will be served a seven-course tasting menu. Book early by email.
Set in an anonymous bunker on the outskirts of central Shanghai, this 10-seat multi-sensory restaurant serving "Avant-Garde Figurative" cuisine from chef Paul Pairet is worth a book. Seats at Ultraviolet are made available three months in advance and can be booked through the restaurant’s website.
This legendary Sunset Boulevard hotel continues to pull in a crowd. Reservations for dinner (which is always a good time to people watch) at the restaurant are taken two weeks in advance. Though lunch and breakfast hours are always easier.
Talulah’s Table, Kennett Square
This farm-to-table, BYOB restaurant has become an institution since it opened over ten years ago. To book your reservations, you'll need to call their phone line (610-444-8255) exactly one year in advance to the numerical date at 7 a.m. when the market opens. But if you didn't make it, cancellations can be found posted in the shop, on Instagram, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if any spots have become available.
El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
Reservations to this much-celebrated three-Michelin starred Catalonian restaurant are accepted up to 11 months in advance (May 2020 is already fully booked), but a new month becomes available at midnight Spain time on the 1st day of each month—so be prepared. And sign up to the waiting list.