THEY might have a reputation abroad for providing cold soup and platos combinados, but the Spanish have just been voted the world’s best cooks.
Incredibly perhaps, Spain has more restaurants in the world Top Ten than even France.
With the trio of El Bulli at number one, and Mugaritz and Arzak in San Sebastian coming in fourth and eighth respectively, they have brushed off Gallic flair with a shrug.
It is the third year in a row that El Bulli, in Catalonia, has come out top in the poll by the UK’s definitive Restaurant magazine. Chef Ferran Adria (pictured left) also won the award in 2002.
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.
It is no surprise that his former apprentice and friend Heston Blumenthal, at the Fat Duck in Bray, came in a close second in the list.
But perhaps, more impressively, Spain’s Mugaritz has gone up four places, while Arzak has moved up two.
Mugaritz chef Andoni Luis Aduriz – another Adria protege – really impressed the 20 judges this year.
In total Spain has some seven restaurants in the Top 50, pipped only by France, with ten and the US with eight.
Paul Wootton, editor of Restaurant magazine, said: “Adria offers such an extraordinary eating experience in his restaurant and what is also important is the service and the setting are top notch.
“Heston is very close to him however and it will be interesting to see if he topples his mentor next year.”