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Sunday
Oct092011

El Bulli serves it's last meal

 

 

El Bulli, 'world's best restaurant' serves its final 49-course supper
They feasted on a 49-course menu containing dishes with baffling names such as 'mimetic peanuts and 'clam-merengue' – the fifty diners lucky enough to secure a place at what has become arguably the world's most revered restaurant when it opened its doors to paying customers for the very last time.
The remote eatery of el Bulli overlooking a serene bay on the Costa Brava two hours north of Barcelona, is to close permanently today to the disappointment of millions of foodies who never had the chance to secure a table.
Ferran Adria, dubbed the godfather of molecular gastronomy – a moniker he detests – shocked the culinary world with the announcement in January 2010 that he was to close el Bulli, a restaurant awarded with a coveted three Michelin stars and acclaimed as best in the world five times.
But he is adamant this isn't retirement and will insists he will have not a moment of regret when he tonight hosts a farewell party for "friends and family" – previous employees among them – to celebrate the end of an era.
"el Bulli is not closing, it is transforming itself, because its soul is going to remain," the 49-year-old said. He insists that change is essential to keep the momentum of creativity.
Instead of the gruelling hours spent by Mr Adria and his team of 70 chefs in creating exotic morsels composed of spheres, gels, emulsifiers and foams, to be served up to a paying public, the culinary alchemist wants to concentrate on other things.
He plans to convert the picturesque site of his restaurant in Cala Montjoi, into the elBulli Foundation, a "gastronomic think tank" and creativity centre dedicated to pioneering his avant garde cuisine to even greater heights. People will still be invited to "try out" his creations but it won't be a restaurant as such.
He has also signed a deal with a Hollywood producer to make a film about his kitchens with a reported budget of $40 million (£24m) and has a new recipe book out in October – Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria – that promises to feature dishes that even the most unadventurous of amateur cooks can produce in their own home.
Despite the fact that a meal – a set degustation menu of up to 50 separate dishes – costs each diner 275 euros (not including taxes or wine), the restaurant has never been profitable. Open only for one sitting a day and only six months of the year, Mr Adria insists he was losing half a million euros a year.
The chef that transformed modern cuisine has made up the shortfall by lending his name to a series of brands, from kitchenware to olive oil, and by taking on roles such as "ambassador" for the Spanish communications giant Telefonica and appearing in a video advertising Estrella Damm lager.
Last spring saw the opening of new venture from the team behind el Bulli. Mr Adria, his brother Albert, and their business partner Juli Soler opened a tapas bar in the centre of Barcelona that takes no reservations and regularly has diners queuing round the block.
For the past few years, more than a million people entered the annual lottery for a place at a table in el Bulli itself, but only around 8,000 were fortunate to eat there each season.
This year, applicants tripled as gourmands the world tried to score last ditch reservations at the Mecca of molecular gastronomy and ensure they had something to boast about forever.
On Friday the final selected few no doubt shared smug smiles as they took their place at the historic "last supper" at el Bulli.
It began with a dish called "dry martini" – a spherical globule of reconstituted olive juice placed on the tongue and then sprayed with atomised gin and vermouth – and 48 dishes later ended with an offering simply called "Box" – a collection of in the unenlightening words of one employee "cubed deconstructed chocolate delights".
In between, and sometimes served along with complex instructions on how to savour the innovative creations, came dishes such as "smoked mousse" – a tobacco flavoured foam – "flowers paper" – essentially a sheet of candyfloss impregnated with roses, geraniums and pansies, and "hare loin in its own blood", in truth a sauce of tangy raspberry juice.
The names of those fortunate final diners was a closely guarded secret but the experience is one that they will undoubtedly be dining out on for years to come.

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