elBulli – Introduction

My tastebuds never felt so alive.

Like the butterflies you felt in your stomach after your very first kiss, A meal at elBulli was equally similar to those once in a lifetime experiences that leaves you reminising for that one moment, hoping it lingers on. One doesn’t have to describe too much when the name elBulli comes up. It is famous for being the best restaurant in the world, for the third year in a row according to the San Pellegrino’s top 50. It has also been holding a 3 Michelin star rating since 1997. I’m about as mathematical as an asparagus but even then I knew the chances were very slim.

El Bulli Kitchen

El Bulli Kitchen

Reservation requests are made via email, and I’ve been told that more than 2 million requests come in every year, with room for only around 8000. The exclusivity is largely due to the size of restaurant, as it seats around 50 covers every night, and it is only open from June to December. The other months are spent on researching on new ideas and food preparation. I originally sent my email request straight after I attended Ferran’s lecture when he visited Sydney last year, and sadly, it was rejected. Funnily enough, I consoled my disappointment with a very dear friend of mine, and with some divine intervention (or his excellent contacts in Spain) he was able to secure a booking during June 2009 for me through Juli Soler. I believe that a reservation request coming from Spain has a much better chance than internationally, as the requests are normally split 50/50 between Spain and all other countries. Knowing how to write an email in Spanish certainly helps too.

El Bulli Kitchen

El Bulli Kitchen

If there was one thing I learnt from Ferran’s lecture, it was that he did not like to use the term “Molecular Gastronomy” to describe his methods, because simple things such as baking bread or boiling water is considered just as ‘molecular’ to him. Ferran prefers to call his technique of cooking “Nueva Cuisine” or “deconstructivist”.

“Obviously what we are trying to do is create more than just a fine meal. You can eat very well at many places in the world, but to have it be a unique experience – not that many.” – Ferran Adria

We arrived a little early and was warmly welcomed by the manager. He gave us a small tour of the kitchen, and we were personally greeted by Ferran. He was very friendly and full of smiles as he shook my hand with both hands with some words of thanks in English (his English has greatly improved since his last visit to Sydney!). He posed for a quick photo, using his signature pose – the same one he strikes on a nightly basis for speech-stuttering chef groupies like myself.  We watched him instruct his kitchen staff for a few minutes and moved onto our table.

Aaron Powdrill, Ferran Adria, Amanda Ibrahim

Aaron Powdrill, Ferran Adria, Amanda Ibrahim

We were seated in the centre of the restaurant, just by the entrance to the smaller dining room. It may not be the best window table in the house, but for Aaron and I (both dabblers in hospitality industry) it was a more rewarding experience to be able to watch how the staff worked. elBulli employs 70 members of staff to serve 50 patrons a day, and according to Wiki, the restaurant itself has been operating at a loss since 2000, with the actual profits coming from cook books and guest lectures conducted by Ferran around the world. When you see all the effort that goes into preparing for our 34 course, 5.5 hour experience, you will no doubt appreciate all the meticulous, labour intensive work the kitchen puts in; there is a separate room just for cleaning all the delicate silverware and specialised plates; one waiter station between every two tables… and above all, the energy and flow of the staff in the room is seamless and efficient.

view from our table

view from our table

While the kitchen is like a lab out of a science fiction novel, the decor in the restaurant could not be more in contrast. It is warm and cosy, with exposed wooden beams, stone walls and old Spanish furniture probably around 20 years old, much like visiting the home of your Spanish grandfather – which is all part of the appeal for me. The rich red velvet upholstery on dark wooden furniture you’d find in a storybook castles, eclectic paintings of Dali prints and photos of French bulldogs were nuances to Salvador Dali’s house in Cadaques that we visited earlier in the day.
There is no menu at elBulli, Ferran simply presents a menu of around 33 courses comprising cocktails, snacks, tapas, avant-desserts, desserts and morphings.
Continue to next post: elBulli – The tasting menu.
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Tags: el bulli, Ferran Adria, spain

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9 Comments to elBulli – Introduction

  1. Jul 7, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    someone’s dream came true ;)

  2. naomi (akareee)'s Gravatar naomi (akareee)
    Jul 7, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    you are the subject of my envy… i can’t wait for your next posts…

  3. Jul 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    how excitement! Can’t wait to see!

  4. Jo's Gravatar Jo
    Jul 7, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Just totally envious…
    Long anticipated post. No disappointments. :)

  5. Cinderella's Gravatar Cinderella
    Jul 8, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    So jealous! Tell us more! Can’t wait to hear about each course in detail!!!

  6. Ja's Gravatar Ja
    Jul 8, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    wow..waiting to hear more.. time flys.. I still remember the post about your booking at Elbulli last year..

  7. Jul 8, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Bring on the food porn photos! So very envious – can’t wait to read all about this experience!

  8. tsering's Gravatar tsering
    Feb 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    wow such a nice kitchen having. i really wanted to know more abt this hotel…………

  9. Paige's Gravatar Paige
    Aug 2, 2011 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    I’m so sad el bulli is closed down now :( (((((

  1. By on Jul 12, 2009 at 6:29 pm

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