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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Spain's El Bulli restaurant held onto its place as the top restaurant in the world, according to the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants 2009 compiled by Restaurant Magazine.
For the fourth year in a row, El Bulli head chef Ferran Adria was voted top by a panel of 806 chefs, critics and industry experts worldwide, while British chef Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck kept second place.
"Below these perennial favorites however, it's all change," the magazine said.
Copenhagen's Noma restaurant with its youthful head chef Rene Redzepi ranked third. Noma, which rose seven places, also took this year's Chef's Choice Award.
Last month, after all the votes had been counted and the top 50 restaurants established, the head chefs of these extraordinary establishments were asked to nominate the restaurant which they considered to be the best in the world. It is the ultimate honor Redzepi's peers can bestow.
Last year's Chef's Choice restaurant, Mugaritz, held onto its highest ever position at number 4, while another Spanish restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, rose a staggering 21 places to fifth, making it 2009's highest climber.
Spain can claim more restaurants at the very top echelons of the list than any other country, with Arzak in eighth position.
Thomas Keller's New York restaurant Per Se grabbed sixth spot and with The French Laundry also well placed on the list, this year, Keller is the only restaurateur with two restaurants in the top 50.
Family business, Bras, headed by chef Michel Bras was the highest placed French restaurant at seven. France's culinary heritage and mastery continues to draw in a wealth of admirers from across the globe as it ties with the United States to score the highest number of restaurants on the list -- each has eight in the top 50.
Grant Achatz of Alinea who was the highest new entry in 2007 rose 15 places in 2008 and this year rises a further 11 places to join the top 10.
The highest new entry came in from Italy, settling at position 13. At Osteria Francescana, chef Massimo Bottura introduces Italy's old guard to Spain's new wave by taking traditional Italian flavors and boldly toying with them.
Meanwhile last year's highest new entry Vendôme, with Joachim Wissler at its helm, keeps the momentum going by rising a very respectable nine places to 25th position.
More new talent made its mark on the 2009 list than in previous years.
Such rising stars and new entries include Steirereck of Austria (30), New York's Momofuku Ssam Bar (31), Mirazur in the South of France (35), Iggy's in Singapore (45) and Quay in Australia (46).
Restaurant rankings on the list are decided by the votes of a panel of international judges collectively called the Nespresso World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy.
The Academy comprises 806 chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and restaurant critics, a third of whom did not vote in the previous year.
Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Steve Addison