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Virus shuts Heston restaurant

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal shuts his central London restaurant after it was hit by an outbreak of a vomiting virus.

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TV chef Heston Blumenthal has shut his gourmet London restaurant after it was hit by an outbreak of the same vomiting virus which forced him to close the Fat Duck five years ago.

The "culinary alchemist" apologised to customers at his exclusive two Michelin-starred Dinner, which will remain closed for a week after 45 diners and members of staff were infected with norovirus.

The award-winning Fat Duck, in Bray, Berkshire, was left out of action for two weeks in 2009 following an outbreak of the winter bug that left over 500 people feeling sick.

Forced to close his restaurant: Heston Blumenthal.
Forced to close his restaurant: Heston Blumenthal. Photo: Supplied

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the 47-year-old said his personal experience and knowledge of the virus meant he knew that it was best to "err on the side of extreme caution".

"I am very sorry for the inconvenience to those customers affected by cancellations," he said.

"However, I will reopen the restaurant safe in the knowledge that we have done everything we can do to continue to strive to create the perfect environment and food for my guests to enjoy."

Blumenthal said that he aimed to amaze guests with "taste sensations beyond their imagination" rather than exposing them to a "really nasty couple of days of heaving".

A total of 24 diners and 21 members of staff were taken ill at the restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Hyde Park.

Dinner's website said that it was expected to remain closed for a week.

Opened to critical acclaim in 2011, the restaurant specialises in historical English food and caters for about 1000 customers a week.

A meal for two can cost around £190 ($360), and signature dishes include the Meat Fruit recipe from 1500 - a chicken liver mousse made to look like a mandarin orange.

An investigation into the Fat Duck outbreak in 2009 found that norovirus was brought into the restaurant by shellfish contaminated with human sewage.

The three Michelin star establishment was shut for 10 days, with 529 customers reporting symptoms in what was one of the largest known outbreaks of the bug in a restaurant.

The highly-contagious norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK.

It causes vomiting and diarrhoea and can be spread from contaminated surfaces and equipment or if an infected person does not wash their hands before handling food.

PA