Westminster City Council’s food safety officers were called to the 126-cover restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge last week, after receiving complaints from diners of sickness. Tests revealed the presence of the winter vomiting bug and the decision was taken to close the venue on Sunday (2 February).
A spokesperson for the restaurant said: "Over the last few days, we were contacted by some guests who reported feeling unwell. As ever, the safety of our guests is our primary concern and, in compliance with our stringent health and safety protocols, we immediately contacted our Environmental Health Officer.
"The EHO conducted a full investigation and all swabs and tests of initial tests that had been returned proved negative. During the winter months, many factors can contribute to illness and we had no indication that any of the communication from our guests was food-related.
"EHO informed us that the situation was contained and advised closure was not necessary. After a six-day period of quiet we were then contacted by another guest who felt unwell shortly after they had dined with us and we immediately contacted the EHO again. More results came back, which found the winter flu bug in a total of five people comprising guests and staff.
"We have decided to close the restaurant to carry out the appropriate measures to ensure the environment is completely safe and norovirus free. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to those guests whose bookings have been cancelled, however we understand how contagious this winter flu bug can be and will take every precaution necessary to protect our guests."
Having opened in 2010, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was one of only two restaurants to be awarded a second Michelin star in this year’s guide. It also placed 10th in the 2013 National Restaurant Awards.
Speaking of the decision taken by managers to close the restaurant, Westminster Council's food safety manager James Armitage said: “We believe this is the responsible thing to do.
"Westminster City Council food safety officers have already carried out a thorough inspection of both the restaurant premises and working practices and will continue to work closely with Public Health England and the restaurant operators until the restaurant is given the all-clear," said Armitage.
“We have already asked the restaurant to improve some of its hygiene procedures – including telling staff to wash their hands more often. All the changes were made immediately.”
This is not the first time that one of Blumenthal’s restaurants has been affected by norovirus. In 2009, the chef was forced to close The Fat Duck in Bray for two weeks after 529 diners were hit by the illness.
On that occasion, health report concluded that oysters tainted with sewage led to guests contracting the norovirus after eating at the restaurant. Environmental health officials for Windsor & Maidenhead Council later said that, although the restaurant 'could have taken greater steps' to combat the norovirus outbreak, there was insufficient evidence to take formal action.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal will re-open next Sunday, 9 February.