'Molecular' cooking takes top honours

“Molecular gastronomy”—the act of transforming the kitchen into a scientific tasting cauldron—has made its mark in Britain with a young English chef who has taken the top restaurant honours in the country.

Anthony Flinn’s restaurant Anthony’s, in the northern city of Leeds, was late on Monday crowned best restaurant in Britain, unseating London-based chefs in a surprise coup.

The prize, awarded based on the reviews of about 7 000 respondents to the Harden’s restaurant-guide survey, has forecast the rise of some celebrity chefs, including last year’s recipient, Tom Aikens.

At 24, Flinn is the sole Englishman to have been a paid worker at El Bulli, the avant-garde restaurant run by Ferran Adria near Barcelona that is often described by food critics as the most exciting venue in the world.

Adria’s laboratory methods, which have won him top world accolades and a years-long waiting list, have turned solid foods into foam, foie gras into powder and created the trademark “liquid ravioli”.

Flinn is not the first in Britain to follow in Adria’s molecular gastronomy movement; Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Bray, west of London, uses thousands of distilled food essences and scientific methods to produce such wonders as snail porridge, sardine on toast sorbet and crystallised fennel.

But Richard Harden, who along with his brother Peter publishes the restaurant guide, said Flinn’s precocious talent signalled his likely rise to super-chef status in the style of other English kitchen kings such as Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White.

Flinn “is making bigger waves earlier in his career than any major chef in recent memory”, he said.

In his Leeds dining room, critics have raved about the roast langoustines with fennel tea consomme, roast duck with chocolate and olive-oil bonbon, and peanut ice cream served with artichoke caramel.

Albert Roux, who with brother Michel created the country’s first three-starred Michelin restaurant, recalled during the Harden’s ceremony that when Le Gavroche opened in the 1960s “food [in Britain] was merely consumed for people to go to work the next day”.

He and Aikens, who cooked at his self-named venue in London, presented Flinn the award after awards were given out to 10 restaurants throughout Britain and 10 others located in London.

The awards, based on the Harden’s guide and sponsored by Remy Martin cognac, opened the country’s long restaurant-award season, along with another batch of honours handed out last week by Harpers Queens and Moët et Chandon champagne.—Sapa-AFP

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