French restaurant guide Gault Millau has awarded chef Heston Blumenthal a near perfect score in its 2005 edition.

The guide, highly esteemed in France but little known in the UK, awarded Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, 19 out of 20 in its first-ever round-up of London restaurants.

Blumenthal said: "I am absolutely overwhelmed to have been recognised by such a prestigious guide that is so highly respected in France. It is a great honour to receive a 19 rating."

Close behind came Tom Aikens with 18 points, ahead of Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, who won 16.

"I'm very thrilled," Aikens said. "It's great. I didn't expect to get such a high mark at all."

The temporarily shut Pied à Terre restaurant on Charlotte Street was awarded 17, as was Sketch on Conduit Street.

The guide hit controversy in 2003 when acclaimed French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide after his La Côte d'Or restaurant in Saulieu, Burgundy, was downgraded from 19 to 17 points.

Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 27 January 2005

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