A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at the Michelin-Starred Mecca In Its Final Hours
Only 8000 guests were confirmed out of two million requests this year. So how did you get the golden El Bulli ticket?
I’ve applied every year for some time now, and never expected to win a reservation, especially with it being the final year. In the end it was through my friend Kathy Wilson—I was invited along by chance at the last minute after one of the expected guests had her passport stolen and could not make it. I was like, “Oh, that sucks…of course I’ll come!”
What were your first impressions of El Bulli?
You arrive when they tell you to arrive; in our case at 6pm. It was an interesting mix of ages and nationalities. It wasn’t a fashion show, but it was a beautifully dressed cosmopolitan crowd there for a once in a lifetime evening. I wore a Jil Sander orange nylon suit. I’m sure others thought I looked ridiculous but I liked it.
Were there a lot of cameras around, ready to snap each dish as it came out?
Almost every table—even the middle-aged Italians—were taking pictures with their mobile phones. Some of the dishes were just so beautiful that you couldn’t help it. But with the first few courses that were frozen, or more fragile, the staff were like: “No pictures, it will melt if you don’t eat it right now!”
Were you given detailed explanations of each dish that was served?
We had to be told if something was inedible. Like, “Don’t eat that, it’s a stick!” You had to pay attention and that got harder as the wine flowed over the four hours of the meal.
Would you describe the experience as challenging?
It’s about experiencing a new way to look at food. You don’t go there for sustenance. Part of the appeal is its inaccessibility—that it’s two hours outside Barcelona, up a mountainside. It’s a castle in the sky.
If you aren’t taking a helicopter direct to El Bulli, what is the accommodation like in nearby Roses?
It’s like one of those beach holidays on the Costa Brava. The lunch I had before El Bulli, at a little seaside restaurant called Rafa’s, was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in my life. It was the complete opposite of El Bulli: the freshest, simplest seafood you can possibly imagine, seasoned with olive oil and salt and done under the grill. I read somewhere that a lot of the chefs from El Bulli [including Adrià] go there on their day off.
To view photo's from Phil Oh's visit to El Bulli visit our Facebook page here