Monday, April 06, 2009

Nami-Nami @ El Bulli: Prologue

5 April 2008, 

Better late than never, they say.

Yesterday exactly one year ago K. and I had a chance to have lunch at El Bulli. A spectacular lunch. A long lunch. A very tasty lunch. A memorable lunch. I-so-have-to-tell-everyone-about-this lunch. Funny enough, it took me a whole year to actually blog about that. When we got home from our 10-day Spanish road trip early last April, I had several deadlines looming. Some at the University, plus I had been commissioned to write some articles about our visit to El Bulli*. I wrote a short piece (one page) for the biggest-selling Estonian food magazine Oma Maitse (May 2008). Then a whole A3-size spread for the main weekly newspaper Eesti Ekspress (22 May 2008). And then a richly illustrated detailed review of the menu spread over six pages for the other local food magazine, KÖÖK (Summer 2008). But somehow I didn't get around to writing about it on my blog.

Well, until now. To mark the one-year anniversary of our visit to El Bulli, I'm gonna give you four blog posts over the next week detailing what happened when Nami-Nami went to El Bulli :) (I could do one long post, but considering we had 30 dishes that all looked fabulous, it's easier to split the post into four).

Before we got to El Bulli, we decided to 'get into the mood'. Ferran Adrià is from Emporda in Catalunya, which is (in)famous for its harsh tramontana-winds that blow from the Pyrenees. The Spaniards believe that these very tramontana winds make the locals a bit funny. Who knows. The world's best known Surrealist, Salvador Dalí, is from the region as well, so it might just be true. In any case, as El Bulli is just an hour's drive from the Dalí Museum in Figueras, we decided to visit the museum first and set the mood :)

The road from Roses (the nearest town) to El Bulli is a spectacle of its own. It's narrow and high and zig-zags alongside the coastline (I wouldn't want to navigate it after a merry meal at the restaurant, that's for sure!). The restaurant itself  is surrounded by cypress and pine trees, and overlooks a beautiful Cala Montjoi bay.

Over-excited as we were, K. and I arrived in our rented Mini Cooper (the best and cutest rental car ever!) a bit early. We parked the car and wondered around the garden. Spotted a group of young stagés chatting on the back of the restaurant:

And large canisters of liquid nitrogen - giving an indication of the type of restaurant we were about to visit:

Once inside, we were greeted by Señor Luis Garcia (what amazing blue eyes that man has!?!). He confirmed our reservation and asked if we wanted a small tour of the El Bulli service kitchen. Of course we did! Garcia assigned us a young waiter, who led us to the kitchen. El Bulli serving kitchen is large, some 130 sq m. It was divided into two - the hot and the cold section. We spotted Ferran's brother Albert working on some pastry (top left photo), and numerous young stagé cooks doing various prep work. Apparently there are 40 cooks taking care of the 50 diners each night - and given the number of people we saw in the serving kitchen, that's indeed very likely. Remember, each El Bulli meal consists of 30 courses - multiply that by 50 (the number of diners) - and you get 1500 dishes. No wonder they need such a huge number of cooks (plus waiters!). Compared to the tiny restaurant kitchen I've worked in (I've never really told you about my stagé at the top gourmet restaurant in Tallinn either, have I?), El Bulli's was huge, spacious and looked like something from a space ship - all shiny metal and a bit futuristic :)

Furthermore, the your waiter assigned to us asks if we want to take a photograph with The Chef? Of course we did!!! Here's our million-dollar picture (K's on the other side of Ferran Adrià, but he's camera shy, so I've promised not to show his face on the blog here ;))

After the short kitchen tour we were led into the surprisingly traditional-looking dining room. Luckily for us, we were seated at a small corner table just under the window, meaning we'd have beautiful natural light for taking pictures.

But more about that next time..


Klary Koopmans said...

I can´t wait for your pictures and descriptions! Blog on!

A_and_N said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience! I am really looking to part-2 :)

ChichaJo said...

Yay!!! I can't wait to see the dishes and read about your experience there! To eat at El Bulli is a dream!

Tartelette said...

That had to be an incredible experience!
Keep meaning to congratulate on your gorgeous baby! Good job cooking up that little one!

mbuitron said...

It's amazing how much the dining experience changes--not only from year to year--but from week to week! Thanks for posting your first tow installments of your el Bulli lunch. I'm looking forward to the rest.

On my own blog, I divided my el Bulli experience into three posts: How I got the reservation, an analysis of the meal (from an art writer's perspective) and of course pictures and descriptions of the meal itself: