IT just got even hotter in the Spanish kitchen.
In the biggest Gallic shrug yet to French restaurants, Spain has found a record four of its restaurants in the World’s Top Ten.
Proving that the huge improvement in Iberian cooking was no fluke, the country has been voted tops in the UK’s definitive Restaurant magazine.
It is the fourth year in a row that El Bulli, in Catalonia, has come out top in the poll, which is compiled from the votes of 800 chefs, critics and industry insiders.
“The Michelin guide has completely missed the pulse of Spanish creative cuisine that has taken the world by storm”
Chef Ferran Adria – known as the king of avante-garde – is now firmly established at the pinnacle of haute cuisine.
Parmesan cheese shaped like spaghetti and carrots served like foam are among the dishes which Adria has concocted in his workshop and which have revolutionised Spain’s reputation for cuisine.
Closed for half of the year to perfect his skills, experts have compared his cooking to the innovation of Picasso.
Once again, former apprentice and friend Heston Blumenthal, at the Fat Duck in the UK, came in second in the list.
But it was a trio of other Spanish restaurants that are keeping the heat on Adria.
Mugaritz – run by another Adria protege Andoni Luis Aduriz – maintained fourth place, while Arzak in the Basque region came in eighth for the second year running.
Best Spanish performer though, is El Celler de Can Roca, in Catalonia, which moved up a staggering 21 places to number five in the poll.
It was founded in 1986 by three brothers. The oldest brother Joan Roca is the head chef; Josep Roca is the sommelier, while the youngest brother, Jordi is in charge of the desserts.
Curiously, their restaurant – Spain’s second best restaurant according to the global poll – is only given two out of three Michelin stars by French food bible the Guia Michelin.
According to British food critic Jon Clarke, whose book Dining Secrets of Andalucia, has charted the huge improvement of restaurants in southern Spain over the last few years, the Michelin guide is fast becoming obsolete.
“The Michelin guide has completely missed the pulse of Spanish creative cuisine that has taken the world by storm,” he said. “The guide is allegedly very short of inspectors across Spain, and consistently misses out on the best, most exciting new places.
“They have certainly failed to see how many exciting new restaurants have opened in Andalucia over the last few years.
“In my book, which has nearly 80 entries, I would say at least 20 deserve Michelin recognition, yet less than five do. That is not good enough.”
In total Spain has some six restaurants in the Top 50, pipped only by France, with eight and the US with eight. The UK has four restaurants in the Top 50.