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Fat DuckHeston Blumenthal has announced plans to launch a unique online reservation "experience" for his Fat Duck in Bray, giving prospective diners an exclusive animated tour of the celebrated menu.

On booking a table, diners will be sent an invitation ahead of their visit, to enter a secret location to view the animated world of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant's menu. The tour culminates in a trip to a make-believe sweetshop, with actor John Hurt as narrator and shopkeeper.

"The Fat Duck is the type of restaurant you may only ever eat in once and I wanted to create that almost childlike feeling of anticipation beforehand," explains Blumenthal.

"In order to achieve this, I needed to push the dining experience beyond the traditional time we spend inside the restaurant at the table. If I could use a metaphor to explain the feeling I hoped to create for my guests, it would be 'like a kid in a sweetshop,' so with that in mind an idea started to develop."

The concept, which has been in development for a number of years, aims to counterbalance the busy reservation process: the Fat Duck can accommodate 42 guests at 15 tables yet receives more than 30,000 calls a day.

Bookings can be made online or by phone and are available three months advance, but the new reservation process is designed to make the fun start immediately.

Blumenthal worked with Manchester-based creative studio the Neighbourhood and sonic branding house Zelig Sound to create an Alice in Wonderland fantasy animation world, which is described as reminiscent of falling down the rabbit hole.

Guests will receive an email around a month ahead of their scheduled visit offering access to the animation, and the link will allow a maximum of four visits.

Here's an example of the animations and intro: 

Santi Santamaria's Singapore restaurant Santi to close

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Thumbnail image for Santi Santamaria The late Santi Santamaria's Singapore restaurant Santi is to close next month.

The family of the iconic three-Michelin-starred Spanish chef, who died of a heart attack aged 53 last year, announced the restaurant at the luxury Marina Bay Sands resort would shut on 11 March.

Santi died in February last year after collapsing in the restaurant's kitchen while serving guests gathered to mark the official opening of Marina Bay Sands.

The closure of Santi, which opened in April 2010, comes as the Santamaria family aims to focus on its business in Spain.

"We want to build on my father's strengths and passion to create a success of the projects that he unfortunately had to leave halfway, many of which are happening in Spain," said his daughter Regina Santamaria, who runs Santi.

"We're sad to leave Singapore but we appreciate very much the support that diners have given to us."

An as-yet-unnamed Asian restaurant will replace Santi in the next few months, according Marina Bay Sands, with staff set to be redeployed across the casino complex where celebrity chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy and Wolfgang Puck, also operate restaurants.

Santamaria's food philosophy was founded on tradition and authenticity, seasonality and provenance. In an interview with Caterer in 2009, when Roux Scholar Daniel Cox was conducting his three-month stage at Can Fabes, Santamaria said: "Visual aesthetics are no use unless a dish delivers taste. All ingredients must be excellent, from the stock onwards."

Santamaria hit the news in recent years when he publicly described Spain's more avant-garde chefs, such as Ferran Adria, as "a gang of frauds whose work is to distract snobs". 

Ferran Adrià teams up with PepsiCo

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Thumbnail image for FerranAdria.jpgFerran Adrià may be closing his legendary restaurant El Bulli this month but this doesn't mean he's taking time off.

It was announced this week that the world-renowned chef has teamed up with PepsiCo - owner of brands like Frito-Lay, Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade - lending his creative, culinary genius to all of the company's brands worldwide.

Adrià has been linked to PepsiCo for a while through other partnerships including the Lay's Craft 100% olive oil or cream Alvalle. This time round the Catalan chef is to create a line of new "snack products", breakfast options and convenience items with a special focus on healthier choices.

Located on the Costa Brava, 100 miles north of Barcelona, El Bulli will close this month for two years and reopen in 2014 as a private, not-for-profit organisation.

The elBullifoundation will allow up to 30 scholars to work alongside the restaurant's creative team. El Bulli will retain its dining, where a certain number of customers will be able to taste the Foundation's creations.

Adrià recently opened two new restaurants in Barcelona together with his brother, Albert. The duo launched tapas bar 41 Degrees in the Catalan capital as well as tapas restaurant Tickets.   

Simon RoganMichelin-starred chef Simon Rogan is to open a "two-year pop-up" restaurant in London.

The chef patron of the critically acclaimed L'Enclume restaurant in Cartmel, Cumbria, has taken over a site in Marylebone and will reopen it in the spring.

Rogan has taken over a remaining two-year lease on the site on Blandford Street, which was previously occupied by Michael Moore, and is thus calling the restaurant a "two-year pop-up".

Head chef at the yet-to-be-named restaurant will be Ben Spalding, who recently joined Rogan at L'Enclume and previously worked at Restaurant Lipp in Gothernburg, Sweden, as well as Michelin-starred London restaurants L'Autre Pied and Rhodes W1. The food offer will be similar to that at L'Enclume.

Rogan and partner Penny Tapsell opened L'Enclume in Cartmel in 2003. Within a year, they had been awarded a Michelin star, a Newcomer of the Year Catey and a rarely awarded 10 out of 10 from the Times restaurant critic Giles Coren. Last year L'Enclume was awarded the AA's top award of five rosettes for it's "groundbreaking cuisine that is inventive and innovative".

Rogan, who opened his second restaurant, Rogan & Company, located minutes from L'Enclume in 2008, first hinted of his intention to open a restaurant in the South of England in 2006. He told Caterer then: "I want more people to sample my food. It seems you get success and recognition a lot quicker in the South."

UPDATE: Simon Rogan's London restaurant will be called Roganic and open on 1 June.

Legendary Spanish chef Santi Santamaria dies

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Santi Santamaria Santi Santamaria, the three-Michelin-starred, legendary Spanish chef, passed away today. He was at his restaurant in Singapore.

A manager at Santamaria's Can Fabes restaurant in Sant Celoni told AFP that the 53-year-old chef had died suddenly while in his restaurant, Santi, run by his daughter.

The manager was not aware of the cause of death, but Spanish media reports claim Santamaria suffered a heart attack.

Santamaria's food philosophy was founded on tradition and authenticity, seasonality and provenance. In an interview with Caterer in 2009, when Roux Scholar Daniel Cox was conducting his three-month stage at Can Fabes, Santamaria said: "Visual aesthetics are no use unless a dish delivers taste. All ingredients must be excellent, from the stock onwards."

Santamaria hit the news in recent years when he publicly described Spain's more avant-garde chefs, such as Ferran Adria, as "a gang of frauds whose work is to distract snobs". 

His comments sparked a battle of words with Adrià, a battle that worsened when Santamaria claimed he and Adrià had had an "ethical and conceptual divorce over what we put on the plate" and accused Adrià of using gelling agents and synthetic additives that represented a health threat to his customers.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for What the Critics SayDinner by Heston Blumenthal continues to impress the food critics, with both The Sunday Times' AA Gill and The Independent's Tracey Macleod giving it top marks.

Housed in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge, Dinner offers a contemporary menu of dishes inspired by historic British food.

Gill says here Blumenthal offers "an exemplary menu of perfect balance and brilliance". "The preparation and the concept manage to be a very British contrariness, both comforting and surprising, inventive but familiar. This food is unthreatening but commands attention and there isn't a mouthful that doesn't insist on the next mouthful," he says.

Meanwhile MacLeod says Dinner is the missing link between the labour-intensive complexity of contemporary haute cuisine, and the produce-led simplicity of modern British pioneers like Fergus Henderson and Mark Hix.

Writing in The Guardian, John Lanchester says Non Solo Vino, Chesterfield, is a pioneering wine shop that doubles up as a restaurant - and a really good Italian restaurant at that.

In time for Valentine's Day and with romance in mind, Zoe Williams heads to date central and finds herself utterly seduced by the food at Hakkasan Mayfair.

Finally after drinking too much to remember eating at Hawksmoor Seven Dials, The Times' Giles Coren goes back and discovers he loves the food.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for What the Critics SayDinner by Heston Blumenthal is the inevitable topic among the food critics in this week and it seems the new restaurant does live up to the hype.

According to Giles Coren, writing in The Times, Blumenthal's pure genius makes Dinner the best new restaurant in the world. "It is the first new dining room to open in Knightsbridge for 100 years that is not incredibly boring, ugly and joyless. And that is saying something. And the menu is thrilling. And believe me, I am not easily thrilled by menus," he says.

The Guardian's food editor, Matthew Fort, says Dinner reclaims and reinvents our own cooking heritage, reinvigorating the tired and ordinary orthodoxies of traditional British cooking: "Over two sittings, I tasted virtually all the 25 dishes on the menu. It says a great deal that even under these intense circumstances so many startling dishes, and some outstanding ones, emerged from behind the terse menu labels."

Meanwhile, the London Evening Standard's veteran critic Fay Maschler finds a few faults at Dinner but loves the meat fruit and desserts. "Were a vegetarian to stray misguidedly into Dinner, he or she might well be disappointed by the £20 dish of Braised Celery (c. 1730) with Parmesan, pickled walnuts, apples and onion, which we shared," she complains.

Finally Matthew Norman writing in the Daily Telegraph says if there's been a more flawless and exhilarating restaurant opening in the past decade than Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, he missed it. "The best thing of all about Dinner is a quality never before associated with a Michelin deity. It is colossal fun," he enthuses.

In other reviews, The Guardian's John Lanchester says Japanese restaurant Koya is very good at making noodles, while The Independent on Sunday's Lisa Markwell says Alan Yau's Busaba chain still offers the same comfort 10 years after its launch.

The Observer's Jay Rayner has a patchy experience at the Devonshire Brasserie, Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire and the Sunday Telegraph's Zoe Williams says the food at Kopapa is dramatic but it just all depends whether you're pro or anti that kind of thing.

Grant AchatzAnd hot on the heels of the Swiss guide, Michelin has released its inaugural guide to the US city of Chicago awarding its top accolade of three stars to Grant Achatz's Alinea, as well as Laurent Gras's L2O Restaurant.

The results to the first edition of the guide were today released one day ahead of schedule after they appeared to have been leaked on the internet.

The new Michelin guide to Chicago also awarded three restaurants with two stars including Avenues, Charlie Trotter's and Ria, while 18 restaurants were given one star.

The guide, which will go on sale on 18 November, lists a total of 23 Michelin-starred restaurants as well as 46 establishments with the Bib Gourmand designation and includes restaurants offering 42 different types of cuisines.

Having won three Michelin stars, Grant Achatz is one of the most respected chefs in the USA and has won numerous awards including the 2003 Rising Star Chef of the Year Award and the 2008 Best Chef in the United States from the James Beard Foundation. Under his tenure, Alinea has received worldwide attention for its hypermodern, molecular approach to dining.

In 2007, Achatz announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four cancer of the mouth, with planned surgery threatening to impair his sense of taste. However, in December that year, the chef declared that he was cancer-free.

Meanwhile French-born chef Laurent Gras opened L20 together with entrepreneur Richard Melman in May 2008. It is a modern seafood restaurant housed in an historic building in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, which last year was nominated for a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant.

The Chicago guide is Michelin's third US guide after New York and San Francisco and the Bay Area. Guides to Los Angeles and Las Vegas were discontinued last year.

Thumbnail image for FerranAdria.jpgSpanish celebrity chef Ferran Adrià has denied weekend reports that he is to permanently close his three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Bulli.

Adrià announced plans to temporarily close the iconic restaurant for two years in 2012 and 2013 at Spanish chef conference Madrid Fusion last month.

But an article in the New York Times over the weekend quoted the famous chef saying that he would close El Bulli for good replacing it with an academy for advanced culinary studies.

The report claimed that Adrià had made the decision to shut El Bulli permanently because he and his partner, Juli Soler, had been losing €500,000 (£435,000) a year on the restaurant and their cooking workshop in Barcelona.

However, Adrià has now denied the report in a Spanish newspaper saying the New York Times had misquoted him. 

"Nothing has changed with respect to the announcement I made in Madrid in January," he said.

"El Bulli will close its doors in 2012 and 2013, and will reopen in 2014."

Ferran Adrià to close El Bulli for two years

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FerranAdria.jpgSpanish celebrity chef Ferran Adrià has announced he will close his three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Bulli for two years.

Adrià made the unexpected announcement today at a press conference at international culinary congress Madrid Fusion, where he had earlier performed a cookery demonstration.

Sat beside business partner and El Bulli's general manager Juli Soler, the chef said he will temporarily close the iconic restaurant on the north Catalan coast near Barcelona during 2012 and 2013.

Adrià claimed the decision was for a combination of personal and creative reasons. "I'm not retiring," he said.

"It's just that we're not feeding anyone at the restaurant for two years. We will still be working. I don't want to go and sit on a beach in the Bahamas but I think we deserve to lead more normal lives because for 25 years we have been focusing on the restaurant. Now we need more time with our families."

El Bulli, which currently only opens for only six months a year and last year shifted its opening season which previously ran April to October, forward to June to December, will open this year and in 2011 before closing.

According to Adrià the time will be used "to work and transform things at El Bulli" although he said he couldn't yet say exactly what that would mean when the restaurant re-opens in 2014.

Article published with thanks to Joe Warwick

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