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A TRUFFLE bought last month for a record-breaking ?28,000 has been buried after rotting before its buyers could even take a nibble of it, it emerged yesterday.
A syndicate of clients at Zafferano restaurant in London, reported to include the actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, bought the whopping 1.9lb white Italian truffle last month.
But before they could have a bite, it was ruined after too many days on display and several in the restaurants safe, where it had been put while the head chef was on holiday.
Andy Needham was the only one to have keys to the safe and by the time he returned from his six-day trip the delicacy was ruined.
The truffle, bought by the restaurant via satellite link at an auction in the Italian village of San Miniato, has now been buried in his garden.
Zafferano has already bought ?2,000 worth of truffles to compensate its clients who paid for the original, which could have made up to 70 portions of the restaurants signature dish.
The manager, Enzo Cassini, said yesterday that the fungus had simply been on display for too long.
"A truffle is like a fruit and can go off very easily. The main problem was that it was left out for people to see. People came from as far as Paris to look at it," he said.
"It was kept out for five days in a row. It was a beautiful piece of truffle and everybody wanted to see it. We had to show it to people as it was a big thing.
"Then it was left out for three or four days downstairs and by the time the chef came back it was too late."
Mr Cassini said they were "a bit disappointed". But the restaurateur added that the main thing was that the truffle had already helped lots of children as its auction had raised money for the Duchess of Yorks Children in Crisis charity.
"We made so many children happy and we are going to buy an even bigger one next year. People are already searching for it," he said.