Mystery illness closes Heston Blumenthal's Michelin-starred Fat Duck – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

02 March 2009 by
Mystery illness closes Heston Blumenthal's Michelin-starred Fat Duck – For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

Mystery illness closes Heston Blumenthal's Michelin-starred Fat Duck Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck, one of just three UK restaurants to hold three Michelin stars, closed its doors last Wednesday after up to 40 guests were afflicted with a mystery illness after eating at the restaurant in the Berkshire village of Bray. Blumenthal called in environmental health officers after a stream of customers had been ringing the restaurant over a three-week period describing flu-like symptoms, vomiting or diarrhoea. But the first round of tests on ingredients for food poisoning bugs and virology tests on his 60 staff found nothing. Blumenthal said he had made a ‘moral' decision to close the restaurant because he was deeply upset that his passion, the Fat Duck, was making people ill. But by Sunday, a day before he expected to be given the all-clear from the final batch of tests, Blumenthal was wondering if he had made a costly mistake that lost him £100,000 in lost bookings. There is now speculation that an outbreak of norovirus, the winter vomiting disease, may have caused the sickness. 28 February and 1 March, Read the full articles in the Independent and the Independent on Sunday >>

… while inspectors consider foul play
Read the full article in the Mail on Sunday >>

Gordon Ramsay's football claims questioned
Doubts have been cast on the football career of multi-Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay, who says he played first-team football for Glasgow Rangers before a ligament injury switched his career to cooking. Ramsay has said he was a member of the first team squad, playing three games before his injury. But Rangers historian Robert McElroy, who has watched every competitive game the club has played, dismissed these claims as "complete and utter nonsense". According to the Sunday Telegraph, his claimed coach Archie Knox, has denied meeting Ramsay, while photographer Allan Cairns said he had photographed Ramsay as part of a team picked to play a testimonial match. Team sheets have identified Ramsay as a triallist in the testimonial match, but he does not appear in squad lists for the other two games. A Rangers spokesman said: "Ramsay was a triallist in that testimonial game. He trained with us for a few months after that but then got injured." - 1 March, Read the full article in the Sunday Telegraph >>

Recession starts to hit budget hotel chain Premier Inn Whitbread is expected to report a 5% fall in sales at its Premier Inn chain in a trading update tomorrow, providing the first signs that the recession is beginning to bite into the budget sector. The fall follows growth of 9.5% in like-for-like sales in the first nine months of the financial year. Analysts also expect the leisure group to pare back its investment budget even further than the £100m cut to £200m announced in December, but to continue to expand the Premier Inn chain in the UK. Premier Inn is still outperforming the overall hotel market and Whitbread's stock has outperformed the FTSE All-Share by 1.5% in the past three months. - 1 March, Read the full article in the Sunday Times >>

Soho House enters new phase of expansion Private members' club Soho House looks set to boost its annual pre-tax profits and sales this year to £8m and £60m (up from £6m and £52m) thanks to last week's opening of Cecconi's restaurant in Los Angeles and the £6m expansion of its Somerset retreat, Babington House. The group intends to expand its Soho House clubs into a global brand and will, over the next 12 months, open new clubs with rooms in West Hollywood, Miami and Berling, open a 40-room "bed & brasserie" in London, and add 27 new rooms to the Shoreditch branch in London. Plans for more clubs in Chicago, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo, Sydney, Cairo and Istanbul will resume when the economy picks up. More Cecconi's will open in New York and Berlin if the Los Angeles venue is a success. - 1 March, Read the full article in the Sunday Times >>

Key attractions break away from VisitScotland Some of Scotland's biggest tourist draws are breaking away from VisitScotland, the country's national tourism body, in the belief they can attract more visitors by spending the money themselves. They include Edinburgh and Glasgow (which account for more than 80% of arrivals in Scotland), and the Shetlands, with other councils expected to follow suit. Edinburgh and the Shetlands are withdrawing their annual funding of £500,000 and £400,000 a year to market themselves while Glasgow, which set up its own market bureau in 2005, will cut its remaining contribution to VisitScotland this year and review it for the following year. Many regional tourist chiefs believe that VisitScotland - created five years ago to replace the area tourist boards - believe the organisation has lost touch with them. The agency, which receives 10% of its £70m annual budget from councils and commercial bodies, said it was comfortable with councils redirecting funding as long as it was used to boost tourism. - 1 March, Read the full article in Scotland on Sunday

By Angela Frewin

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