It doesn’t happen often, but when you’re one of the top restaurants in the world and your customers end up with food poisoning, that becomes a tsunami in the culinary world.
Given two stars by the Michelin Guide and voted byThe S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna World’s 50 Best Restaurants as the best restaurant in the world for three years running, the Noma restaurant in Denmark has been serving exotic dishes that include foraged Nordic ants, fermented grasshoppers, live shrimp and locally sourced carrots in malt soil at around 5,000 Danish krone (£580) for a 12-course set menu for two including appetisers, treats to finish, wine pairing and a tour of the kitchen to meet some of the 50 chefs.
Established in 2004,the name is a blend of the two Danish words “nordisk” (Nordic) and “mad” (food) and can only seat 40 diners on one sitting. Rumour has it that the wait-list is several months long.
The first sign of trouble started between 12 and 16 February when 63 customers who ate there developed fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. Danish health authorities have since traced the cause to a Norovirus infection, spread by an infected kitchen staff. They criticised the restaurant for not having running warm water for staff to wash their hands.
The Norovirus, which causes stomach flu and viral gastroenteritis, is spread by several ways:
- Consuming contaminated food or drinks.
- Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting hands or fingers into your mouth.
- Having direct contact with another person who is infected e.g. sharing food or eating from the same utensils as someone who is ill.
- Aerosol spread (when vomiting disperses virus particles into the air).
The virus has been responsible for several outbreaks in the last few months, as in the UK during last winter and on several cruise ships, the last one being yesterday (see here).
Such outbreaks in restaurants are nothing new. 3 years ago, I wrote about a similar Norovirus outbreak at the famed Fat Duck restaurant in the UK, where 240 people fell sick and survived the ordeal.
So will the world’s best restaurant be forced to close its doors? Highly unlikely, as the Fat Duck has showed, as it still enjoys booming business. But will it retain its title for this year when results are announced next month? We shall see..