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Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal observes chefs preparing a meal  at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London in April.
updated 9/25/2009 11:58:23 AM ET 2009-09-25T15:58:23

Chef Heston Blumenthal has apologized to diners who fell ill after eating at his celebrated restaurant The Fat Duck — and invited them to return as his guests.

Blumenthal said in a letter made public Friday he is sorry the diners had a bad experience at his restaurant earlier this year, which serves its customers outlandish food such as egg and bacon ice cream and powdered pigeon.

"It was deeply upsetting to all of us that your enjoyment of The Fat Duck was not as we had intended it to be," he said in the letter. "I would be delighted if you would consider returning to The Fat Duck at a time that is convenient to you."

He adds: "If this is not appropriate to you personally, please contact us and we will address each individual situation with our insurers."

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Blumenthal said he had wanted to write to the diners months ago, but was advised against it by lawyers and insurers.

The Fat Duck, which has three Michelin stars, was closed for more than two weeks from Feb. 24 after diners complained of feeling ill after eating there.

A total of 529 diners came forward in the following weeks complaining of vomiting and diarrhea. The Health Protection Agency said in a report last month that they were hit by norovirus, also known as the "winter vomiting bug," and that it was probably introduced by contaminated shellfish.

The report also said restaurant employees who had been hit by the norovirus may have returned to work before they had fully recovered. The Fat Duck maintains it is not liable for the outbreak, and insists it followed all food hygiene procedures correctly. You ate what?

The report said it had not found any breaches of hygiene at The Fat Duck but noted several "weaknesses in procedures," including a delayed response to the incident and staff working when they should have been off sick.

The restaurant, located in the village of Bray, west of London, reopened in March. Diners can choose from a variety of dishes, including a multi-course 130 pound ($208) per head tasting menu.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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