Eyjafjallajokull would have been the word on everybody's lips, if they could pronounce it, leading up to the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards in London. Fortunately, the Icelandic volcano decided to stop spewing its ash into Europe's airspace in the days leading up to the prestigious event, and the world's best chefs and greediest media were able to convene upon the historic Guildhall for a night that was to signal a new order for the world's top restaurants. Here's how it unfolded.
Ferran Adria of El Bulli arrives alongside Juan Mari Arzak of Arzak, and, as if by magic, some journalists appear.
Heston Blumenthal grabs a cheeky kiss, hoping that journalists and nosy bloggers would be more interested in the man wearing Noddy Holder's trousers behind him. You were wrong, Heston.
Richard Haward's oysters proved a popular source of zinc at the Slow Food Market inside the Guildhall. Special mentions must also go to Oliver's Cider & Perry and Butford Organics for their fine, crisp English perry (both from Herefordshire), not to mention Great Glen Game of Inverness-shire for their dry-cured, oak-smoked wild venison. Needless to say, it was all duly sampled.
Either somebody's wearing a hilarious pair of shoes, or Eckart Witzigmann is merely delighted at receiving the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. Rainer Becker, co-founder of Zuma restaurant, presents the gong to the legendary Austrian chef.
Ferran Adria gets emotional as he receives a special 'chef of the decade' award, sparking a flurry of whispers as to a possible change at the top of the 50 Best list.
And the whisperers were right. Rene Redzepi of Noma scoops the prize as his Copenhagen restaurant is named the best restaurant in the world, 2010.
For a moment it looks like Redzepi has had one of Heston Blumenthal's dodgy oysters, but the Dane is merely showing his gut-felt appreciation for his Gambian dishwasher, Ali. The man whose face adorns the Noma boys' t-shirts was denied a visa for travel to the UK, and was unable to join them for the awards.
Oh-oh! Ferran Adria holds his nose, Heston Blumenthal looks as if he's about to pass out, and (in the background) Fergus Henderson of St John restaurant offers a startled expression. Meanwhile, Juan Mari Arzak chortles cheekily.
"We still on for that Big Mac later?" Heston Blumenthal and Rene Redzepi share a private moment.
Their secret dinner-date agreed, Heston and Rene pose for the cameras...
... and some Catalan bloke crashes the party. The men behind the three best restaurants in the world (that is if you pay any attention to awards ceremonies): Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck (3rd), Ferran Adria of El Bulli (2nd) and Rene Redzepi of Noma (1st).
The full list is here (1-50) and here (51-100). Sadly, no Middle East restaurants made the top 100.