Spanish restaurant is world's best

A restaurant in northern Spain whose chef relies on chemistry and physics to cook the most unusual - and stunning - dishes was voted best in the world.

    El Bulli is said to be booked for months in advance

    El Bulli, near Rosas, regained the title it won at the inaugural World's 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2002, swapping places with last year's top eatery, The Fat Duck, in the village of Bray, west of London.


    The Spanish restaurant, which one British newspaper critic once described as "culinary nirvana", has consistently been in the top three ever since with its experimental, scientific approach to cuisine known as molecular gastronomy.


    Disciples of the food science typically use centrifuges, liquid nitrogen, microscopes or lasers to cook.


    El Bulli is said to be booked for months in advance by diners eager to sample 43-year-old chef Ferran Adria's Michelin three-star cooking which includes dishes such as barnacles with tea foam and grilled vegetables with charcoal oil.


    The luxury restaurant is only open from April to September to allow Adria to spend the other six months of the year perfecting recipes in his Barcelona laboratory.


    Strong showing by Spain


    Spain had a strong showing in the awards, organised by the UK-based Restaurant Magazine and unveiled to the cream of the culinary world at a ceremony at London's Science Museum.


    Restaurante Arzak, in San Sebastian, northern Spain, was in ninth position, followed by the highest new entrant and its near neighbour, Mugaritz, at 10, and with Can Fabes, in Sant Celoni, near Barcelona, at 11.


    The United States has five restaurants in the top 20, including best restaurant in the Americas for the French Laundry in California in fourth.


    France had four, including Chef's Choice for Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, and Britain three.


    Italy had one - the highest climber, Gambero Rosso, in Rome at 13 - while Tetsuya in Sydney was voted the best restaurant in Australasia and also took fifth spot.


    Middle East/Africa


    The best restaurant in the Middle East and Africa was said to be La Colombe, in Cape Town, South Africa. It was 28th on the list.


    Hong Kong restaurant Felix, which was last year's sole Asian representative, slipped off the list, although London-based Japanese restaurant Nobu made a strong showing at 12.


    South Asian eatery Bukhara in Delhi made it to 46th spot this  time around.


    The awards are based on assessments made by 560 judges across the world.


    Voting was changed this year to prevent a repeat of complaints of a London-bias in the awards after 14 restaurants in the British capital made the top 50 in 2005.


    Here is the World's Best Restaurants 2006 winners list:


       1 El Bulli, Spain - The Penfold's World's Best Restaurant, Best in Europe

       2 The Fat Duck, United Kingdom

       3 Pierre Gagnaire, France - Chef's Choice

       4 French Laundry, US - Best Restaurant in the Americas

       5 Tetsuya, Australia - Best Restaurant in Australasia

       6 Bras, France

       7 Restaurant Le Louis XV, Monaco

       8 Per Se, US

       9 Restaurante Arzak, Spain

       10 Mugaritz, Spain - Highest New Entrant

       11 Can Fabes, Spain

       12 Nobu, UK

       13 Gambero Rosso, Italy - Highest Climber

       14 Gordon Ramsay (Royal Hospital Road), UK

       15 Restaurant Alain Ducasse, France

       16 Jean Georges, US

       17 Le Cinq, France

       18  Daniel, US

       19  Oud Sluis, The Netherlands

       20  Chez Panisse, US

       21  El Celler de Can Roca, Spain

       22  L'Astrance, France

       23  Hof van Cleve, Belgium

       24  La Maison Troisgros, France

       25  L'Atelier, France

       26  Charlie Trotter's, US

       27  Le Gavroche, UK - Outstanding Value

       28  La Colombe, South Africa - Best Restaurant in the Middle  East and Africa

       29  Enoteca Pinchiorri, Italy

       30  Rockpool, Australia

       31  Le Calandre, Italy

       32  Le Bernardin, US

       33  Noma, Denmark

       34  Restaurant Dieter Muller, Germany

       35  St John, UK

       36  Hakkasan, UK

       37  Martin Berasategui, Spain

       38  Le Quartier Francais, South Africa

       39  Chez Dominique, Finland

       40  L'Ambroisie, France

       41  Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany

       42  Dal Pescatore, Italy

       43  Bocuse, France

       44  L'Arpege, France

       45  Gramercy Tavern, US

       46  Bukhara, India

       47  De Karmeliet, Belgium

       48  Oaxen, Sweden

       49  Comme Chez Soi, Belgium

       50  DOM, Brazil

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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