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El Celler de Can Roca leads Spanish triumph in restaurant awards

Girona’s El Celler de Can Roca has knocked Copenhagen’s Noma off the top spot as the World’s Best Restaurant.

World’s best: Celler de Can Roca

The restaurant, in northeastern Spain, is a stone’s throw from the internationally-celebrated El Bulli, five-times winner of the World’s Best award until its closure last year.

El Celler de Can Roca is run by the three Roca brothers – head chef Joan, pastry chef Jordi, and sommelier Josep Roca. It is renowned for its comprehensive wine list – the cellar holds some 60,000 bottles, and the list itself, in two telephone directory-sized volumes, is delivered to the table on a porter’s trolley.

‘Head chef Joan is alone a cook of the very highest order,’ Restaurant Magazine, the publisher of the 50 Best list, says. ‘He helped pioneer the widespread use of sous-vide cooking in the ’90s via his Roner machine, and is a technical maestro.’

Roca is known for combining local Catalan cuisine with avant-garde and experimental dishes – starters of caramelized olives hung on a bonsai tree, or Iberian suckling pig with pepper sauce and garlic and quince terrine, ‘the maximum expression of the low-temperature vacuum cooking technique’, as he puts it.

Another dish aims to capture the essence of bergamot, one of Roca’s signature flavours. The Adaptation of the Eternity fragrance by Calvin Klein captured ‘the volatile soul of a perfume, deciphering the formula and adapting it to an edible reality’, he says.

The World’s Best Restaurants is a well-regarded ranking, based on the votes of some 900 figures from the restaurant world.

Noma in Copenhagen has taken the No1 position for the past three years and now slips down to second place, with Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, in third place.

Three UK restaurants make it into the list – Heston Blumenthal has two entries, with his new London restaurant Dinner in at No7, while the long-established Fat Duck in Bray goes down from No20 to No33.

At No13 is one of London’s most popular high-end restaurants, The Ledbury in Notting Hill.

Other UK restaurants are in the Top 100: Nuno Mendes’ Viajante in East London is No59, Hedone in West London No70, and the popular St John in Farringdon at No71.

But it is Spain, with five restaurants in the Top 50, that shows its culinary pedigree. In the Top 10 are Can Roca, Mugaritz (4) and Arzak (8) in San Sebastián, then at No26 is Quique Dacosta, further down the east coast at Dénia, and at No44 is Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo in the Basque region of Vizcaya.

France has six restaurants in the Top 50 but none in the Top 10. Its highest entrant is L’Arpège in Paris at No16.

The US also has six: Eleven Madison Park (5), Per Se (11), Le Bernardin (19), Daniel (29), all in New York, Chicago’s Alinea (15), and The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa, scraping in at No47.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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