SPAIN has been crowned the new restaurant capital of the world after a Norovirus outbreak marked the end of Noma in Denmark's reign as the world's best dining experience.
El Celler de Can Roca, an establishment in Girona run by a trio of brothers who combine avant-garde Catalan dishes with cutting-edge techniques, has taken the top spot in the coveted World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
Spain now outranks Paris and New York as the world's culinary capital, with Mugaritz (number 4) and Arzak (number 8), both located in San Sebastián, northern Spain, also featuring in the top 10.
Heston Blumenthal was again named the top British restaurateur in the annual list compiled for Restaurant magazine and unveiled at the London Guildhall on Monday night, with two entries in the top 40.
Blumenthal's Dinner, based at the Mandarin Oriental near Hyde Park, which specialises in "historic British gastronomy", rose two places to number 7.
However the three Michelin-starred Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, a former number one, dropped 20 places to 33.
The Ledbury in Notting Hill, last year's fastest riser, improved one place to 13.
El Celler finally displaced Noma in Copenhagen, which held the top spot for three years.
Noma's reputation took a hit in February when 63 guests fell ill with sickness and diarrhoea after visiting the haute cuisine establishment.
Health inspectors criticised the restaurant for not alerting authorities soon enough and for not taking proper action after a sick employee, believed to be the source of the Norovirus outbreak, was struck ill upon returning home after work.
At El Celler de Can Roca, opened by the Roca brothers in 1987, Joan heads up the kitchen, Jordi is head pastry chef and Josep is head sommelier, in charge of front of house.
The three Michelin-starred family restaurant delivers "emotional cuisine", with different ingredients chosen to take diners back to childhood memories and a specific place in their past.
Dishes include oysters served with a distillation of earth, anchovy-wrapped olives brought to the table hanging from a bonsai tree, Campari bonbons, veal tendons with sea anemone and a rose soufflé.
Jordi has created a perfume, Cloud of Lemon, that smells of one of his desserts.
Eleven months notice is already required for bookings at weekends.
Spain has five restaurants in the top 50.
The US and France tie for the highest number of restaurants in the top 50 with six each, compared to the UK's presence of three.
There are four further London restaurants in the top 100, headed by Viajante at 59.
The Michelin-starred Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social enters the 100 at 83.
Heston Blumenthal said he was "delighted" with Dinner's continued rise but believes that the UK deserved a greater representation in the top 50.
He told The Independent: "I really believe that for diversity, quality and range of restaurants, London is the most exciting city in the world right now."
He added: "There is an ambiguity about the list because you don't know whether its being judged on the technical quality of the food, or which is the most user-friendly environment or the best setting."
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