“How could we let it come to this!” I yelled at J and T while doing 140km/h in a 70km/h zone in a reckless effort to keep our 8pm reservation at the most famous restaurant in the world. El Bulli.
It was always going to be a tight. We had to drive across Spain (south of France actually) from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean. A dodgy GPS and a scenic route detour through the Pyrenees, while a great idea at the time, didn’t help.
Check in. Drop bags. Shower. Beer. Ready.
Striding out the front doors of our hotel to our waiting taxi, with doors open and engine running, did it really sink in. I was going to El Bulli.
The restaurant in located in a secluded cove 20 minutes north of Roses in the Costa Brava. While waiting at the front steps like nervous school children it came to me that while the setting is beautiful it is also humble.
We were shuffled in through a crowd of other diners to meet Ferran Adria. While this was a huge honour it felt like a tourist production line and more of a photo opportunity than anything, this could be down to the fact Ferran can’t speak english and we can’t speak spanish.
Once we are seated the dishes come quickly, there are 37 to get through. The waiters don’t mess around, as they put a dish down they explain what it is, describe how to eat it and often suggest it must be eaten quickly. This is all very different from a traditional fine dining experience as sometimes it felt as things were moving a little too quick. Saying this it didn’t bother me, I wanted to eat the dishes the way and pace Ferran had intended.
Ferran doesn’t like to be called a molecular gastronomist, he prefers deconstructionist. He pulls things apart and puts them back together in a way that plays with your senses and memory of how things are and were. A great example of this is serving a apple mojito that looks like a french bagette.
It’s a cocktail but looks like a bagette. The bread (which isn’t bread) dissolves in the mouth and you are left with a chilled, rich, apple alcohol flavour.
Another dish which did this was the gorgonzola globe.
I was thinking sweet white easter egg chocolate, instead got strong rich gorgonzola. And what’s more diners reach in to break off pieces with their hands.
A classic Adria dish was the mimetic peanuts. A peanut oil shaped like a peanut, as soon as you lay it on your tongue the outer layer dissolves covering your mouth with the thick oil.
Just when you get used to eating with your hands the waiters start bringing dishes that require small folks and spoons, like this bone marrow and oyster royale. I don’t recall using a knife anytime during the 37 courses.
There were consistent themes/flavours running through the menu. Pine nuts or nuts in general, gorgonzola, parmesan, ham fat and alot of the dishes used Asian flavours which was unexpected.
We started at 8pm and left after midnight. It was the most enjoyable and interesting gastronomique experiences I have had. I only wish it went a little slower so I could take more of the experience in.
El Bulli, Cala Montjoi, 17480 Roses, Spain