Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck was named one of the top restaurants in the world last night as Gordon Ramsay suffered the ignominy of falling out of the top 100.
Just two months after hundreds of its £200-a-head diners fell violently ill, the Fat Duck, renowned for serving such unusual delicacies as nitro-green tea and salmon in liquorice, was named the second best restaurant in the world behind El Bulli in Spain for the fourth year running.
But the biggest casualty was Gordon Ramsay, whose worldwide restaurant empire has 10 Michelin stars, more than any other British chef. His finest restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, central London – one of only three British establishments with three Michelin stars – fell out of the top 100 completely.
Ramsay's fall completes a hat trick of negative publicity for the chef in the past week, following news that his gastro pubs reheat food prepared in a central kitchen and environmental health reports that revealed pest controllers had been called in to tackle cockroaches at Claridge's in 2007.
For Blumenthal, the rating was a sign of his global standing in a top 50 in which Britain's one-time tally of 14 has slipped away to continental rivals. But for the 529 diners who complained they fell violently ill after eating at the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, the accolade may be harder to swallow.
Within the next month the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is due to issue its report on the sickness, which is believed to have been caused by a winter vomiting bug spread by staff.
Some 800 chefs, critics and industry experts judged Restaurant magazine's World's Top 50 Restaurants, which was announced at Freemason's Hall in central London last night.
However, the judging – which also ranked the next 50 runners up – was conducted before the Fat Duck was hit by its mystery illness. On 24 February, Blumenthal shut the restaurant after up to 40 customers called in saying they had been taken ill with vomiting, diarrhoea and flu-like symptoms. The number of diners reporting illnesses eventually reached 529.
In what was generally a poor night for British cooking, four UK restaurants made the top 50, down from six last year and 10 fewer than the 14 recorded in 2005. Fergus Henderson's "nose to tail" offal eaterie St John, in Smithfield, east London, was the only British restaurant to rise in the rankings, nudging up two places to 14th. London's two famous oriental restaurants slipped places, with the Japanese eaterie Nobu down four places to 34, and Hakkasan, a Chinese, down 17 places to 36.
Although tempered by the ranking of his protege Jason Atherton's Maze, which placed at 92, Ramsay's disappointment is unlikely to have been eased by the news that the restaurant of another former pupil, Marcus Wareing, with whom he has spectacularly fallen out, came 52nd. The judges tipped Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley Hotel in central London to break into the top 50 next year.
Le Gavroche, the timeless temple to French gastronomy in Mayfair, fell from number 22 to 58. The River Cafe came 71st. Elsewhere on the list, the highly regarded Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, run by the youthful chef Rene Redzepi, continued its ascent, rising four places to third.
Overall, France and the US had the most restaurants in the top 50 with eight each. Italy had six and Spain five.
Blumenthal's Fat Duck was named the world's best in 2005, with his friend and rival Ferran Adria's El Bulli in Girona, Catalonia, taking second place. The roles were reversed in 2006 and have remained the same since. However, retaining second spot is likely to be a welcome relief for the 42-year-old chef amid one of the largest restaurant health inquiries in decades.
The Fat Duck reopened last month after a 15 day closure, but the HPA later criticised the restaurant for allowing staff to work before they were free from the highly contagious norovirus.
For Blumenthal the illness could not have come at a worse time, as his new Channel 4 series on historic feasts and a kitchen gadget competition for the dishwasher tablet firm Finish were about to begin. Although the illness has cost him at least £100,000, it has failed to damage his culinary reputation or, so far, bookings at the Fat Duck. The restaurant received a perfect 10 out of 10 in this year's Good Food Guide, which is booking two months' in advance.
The Top 30: Hidden gems
1 Bulli, Spain
2 The Fat Duck, UK
3 Noma, Denmark
4 Mugarit, Spain
5 Celler de Can Roca, Spain
6 Per Se, USA
7 Bras, France
8 Arzak, Spain
9 Pierre Gagnaire, France
10 Alinea, USA
11 L'Astrance, France
12 The French Laundry, USA
13 Osteria Francescana, Italy
14 St John, UK
15 Le Bernardin, USA
16 Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville, Switzerland
17 Tetsuya's, Australia
18 L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, France
19 Jean Georges, USA
20 Les Créations de Narisaw, Japan
21 Chez Dominique, Finland
22 Ristorante Cracco, Italy
23 Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany
24 D.O.M., Brazil
25 Vendôme, Germany
26 Hof van Cleve, Belgium
27 Masa, USA
28 Gambero Rosso, Italy
29 Oud Sluis, Netherlands
30 Steirereck, Austria