Published: Sunday March 31, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 24, 2013 MYT 2:20:26 PM

Own a piece of elBulli history

elBulli may have closed for good but you can still get a piece of memorabilia from the famous restaurant at two auctions. There’s even a dinner with Ferran Adrià himself up for bids.

THE planet’s “bestest” restaurant, elBulli, is now closed and many foodies of the wealthy variety are convinced it is nothing short of Paradise Lost.

elBulli closed on July 30, 2010 and will be resurrected next year, not as a restaurant but a “culinary creative centre”. Or maybe a think-tank for creative cuisine under the aegis of the elBulli Foundation.

Currently, the title of Best Restaurant in the World is held by Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Unfortunately, “noma” is also the name of a deadly gangrenous disease which leads to facial destruction – which is why research on names is vital, but that is another story.

For the terminally ignorant, elBulli was a Spanish restaurant in the sweetly named town of Roses in Catalonia that is synonymous with molecular gastronomy. A meal there costs an average of RM1,000 per person. Overlooking the Bay of Costa Brava, elBulli is named after the two French bulldogs owned by Dr Hans and Marketa Schilling, the original owners of the restaurant. The Schillings opened elBulli in 1965 and it won its first Michelin star in 1976.

Ferran Adrià joined in 1984 and by 1987 was running the entire kitchen. In 1990, elBulli won its second Michelin star and in 1997 its third and maximum number of stars. Adrià has run elBulli for 27 years, culminating in him being feted as the world’s greatest chef and his restaurant as the earth’s haute cuisine haven.

Adrià obviously has no Chinese blood coursing through his veins. With a queue stretching from the town of Roses all the way to Madrid so to speak, one would think he would keep his restaurant open 24/7.

Instead, elBulli opened only from June 15 till Dec 20 every year and one could not even pay through the nose to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve there! Apparently, the great chef spent six months of the year concocting and perfecting the restaurant’s new menu for the following season!

Bookings for the year were accepted for just one day after the end of the previous season. Only around 8,000 diners could be fed and watered per season, but over two million applied!

Well then, it was no wonder the restaurant with its 42 chefs had operated at a loss since 2000. Its lifeline was elBulli books and lectures by Adrià .

This haemorrhage forced Adrià to throw in his toque. Seems rather obvious that any restaurant might meet a similar fate if it had a six-month hiatus annually but some Swiss hotels, such as Badrutt’s Palace, opens only during the winter season and continues to thrive.

But all is not lost for its legion of fans. On April 3 and 27, Sotheby’s Hong Kong and New York will be auctioning elBulli wines and utensils plus an opportunity of a lifetime.

Drink the wines

Since elBulli will not reincarnate into a restaurant, its fabled wine cellar is now up for grabs. Sotheby’s will auction elBulli wines assembled by Juli Soler and his sommelier team under Adrià’s eagle eye.

Sublime sherries, fine Bordeaux and Burgundys, top champagnes and exquisite examples from Catalonia and Ribera del Duero to gems from Rioja and classic Italian, German and Australian wines will be auctioned.

As proof that the wines come from elBulli cellars and not some cheap plonk shop, each bottle will be plastered with an elBulli sticker that identifies its provenance.

The most prestigious (read that as priciest) bottles will boast the signature of Ferran Adrià. These top 330 bottles include sterling examples from Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Latour, Yquem, Vega Sicilia and Pingus.

The 445 lots are expected to fetch between RM2.5mil and RM3mil.

Cook like the chef

elBulli is no more but you can still cook up a storm in your own kitchen – using original utensils and actual equipment from the kitchen of elBulli!

You might be forgiven for thinking cooked meat is, well, nothing more than cooked meat, but at elBulli, the food was considered so revolutionary that new terms had to be created to describe it. Think “molecular” and “techno-emotional” gastronomy and you get the drift!

Apparently, much of the food served to blessed diners could only be cooked and served using unique utensils and equipment made specially for elBulli.

Much of elBulli’s kitchen dinnerware was specifically designed for the restaurant after Adrià’s team realised the equipment available to them did not meet high enough standards for the food that would be served on them.

These unique pieces were created by designers in Barcelona, Spain and Switzerland and include Dish & Cover (RM480), Baroque Metal Trays (RM480 per set), Corrugated Trays (RM800 per set), crockery (RM180 each), Mesh Trays (RM480 per set) and the esoteric Crockery for Spherical Olives (RM480 per set).

I would have thought all olives are spherical. Or am I wrong? I could also have sworn that I have seen similar items at Bangkok’s Chatuchak market but I am a philistine.

More pricey are a set of 10 elBulli knives at RM3,100 per set and cutlery at RM6,200 per set. For bragging rights, nothing is more ostentatious than a white chef’s Jacket signed by Adrià himself at RM3,100 each. Only four are available. Just make sure you dry clean yours and tell the cleaners to leave the autograph alone.

My favourite would be an elBulli menu (starting bid RM780) that can be prominently displayed on your dining table or work desk.

Dine with Ferran

The pièce de résistance is having dinner with Adrià himself! Yes, with the greatest living chef on Earth! It is at his brother’s restaurant called Tickets in Barcelona and when you win the bid, just make your way to sunny Spain. Bidding starts from RM15,700.

Foodies will think they have died and gone to heaven as even if you had dined at elBulli, Adrià would probably not have been sitting at your table making small talk.

Sotheby’s will auction this once-in-a-lifetime dinner with Adrià on April 3 in Hong Kong and another on April 26 in New York, where the cellar sale will also be held.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, el bulli, auction, ferran adria


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