A Stolen Bag, Bad Hair And An Unforgettable Meal At Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli
We dined at Ferran Adrià's now-defunct El Bulli in Spain when it was ranked World’s Best Restaurant (a version of this article first appeared in issue #835 of 8 DAYS, 19 Oct, 2006).
I first saw Ferran Adrià's El Bulli on Anthony Bourdain's documentary Decoding Ferran Adrià. This was at a time when the term "molecular gastronomy", now so recklessly bandied about, was as alien to me as the dangerously wobbly 'spherical' olives Bourdain ate on camera as he viewed Adrià with a mixture of admiration and what seemed like mild intimidation. El Bulli had just snagged the title of World's Best Restaurant for the second time — it went on to claim the top spot thrice more, the most awarded eatery on the list — before its closure in 2011. (It will reopen circa 2022 as El Bulli 1846, an “exhibition lab” dedicated to "pure experimentation,” says the chef, who was busy with various gastronomic projects over the years). I longed to travel to Spain and meet this strange but brilliant 44-year-old Catalan and eat his strangely beautiful food that Bourdain declared ethereal.
The opportunity came sooner than expected, several months later on a slated vacation. And here we are, at last, after a harrowing journey that involved my bag being robbed in Barcelona, a trip to two crowded police stations to file a report with disinterested cops, and a frenzied dash to make it for the long train ride and subsequent taxi ride to the restaurant. Amid all that drama, I barely had time to check into the hotel, change and rush to El Bulli for dinner. Also, amid the chaos, I'd left my camera at the hotel and had to use my crummy cell phone camera (ed's note: this was before smart phones were invented) to snap photos of this special occasion. Even my crazily windblown hair looked embarrassed that it was having the worst hair day of its life. But what the hell — I made it to El Bulli.