/ 27 January 2010

World’s top restaurant to close for two years

He has inspired gasps of delight, groans of ecstasy and looks of deep confusion, but on Tuesday Ferran Adria — chef at the famously experimental El Bulli restaurant in Spain — caused mass despair on the culinary circuit when he announced that his restaurant will close for two years.

El Bulli, repeatedly crowned best in the world and celebrated for creating such dishes as turtle dove with blackberry caviar and duck foie gras candies, will temporarily shut its doors in 2012 and 2013, the chef announced at Madrid Fusion, an international culinary conference.

“No meals will be served in El Bulli in 2012 and 2013,” he said. Perhaps sensing the deep anguish in the room, he added that they would be back. “It is clear that when we return things won’t be the same,” he said. “But listen, these are not going to be years of sabbatical.”

Still, there were ominous words for those hoping for a taste of the food so many have raved about, with Adria warning that when he returns it will not be business as usual.

“With a format like the current one it is impossible to keep creating,” Adria said. “In 2014, we will serve food somehow. I don’t know if it will be for one guest or 1 000.”

The time will be used “to work and transform things at El Bulli”, he assured the crowd. What this means for the reopening in 2014 remains to be seen.

The three Michelin star El Bulli, tucked away on the Catalan coast, was last year named the world’s best restaurant for the fourth year by Restaurant magazine in Britain. The mecca of molecular gastronomy, a phrase Adria derides, is famous for deconstructing traditional dishes and creating as much bewilderment among diners as pleasure.

Who will now take the title of world’s best chef, with Adria out of the race, has already become a subject of debate among critics. Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck in Bray, whose cuisine is of a similarly experimental nature, is in the running after coming second for the last four years. He last won in 2005.

With tables for the six-month season at El Bulli selling out in a day and with two million people — including the world’s great and good — competing for a mere 8 000 settings in the past few years, why would the world’s most celebrated chef take such an extended break? The simple answer may be that he is tired. Working 15 hours a day was difficult, he said.

But although the phantasmagorical food that made Adria’s name will not be on offer, the 47-year-old chef insisted that he will not stop working entirely. “During this time we will analyse all of the know-how, the technique and style of El Bulli after 30 years of a creative trajectory,” he said.

“I don’t want to go and sit on a beach in the Bahamas but I think we deserve to lead more normal lives because for 25 years we have been focusing on the restaurant. Now we need more time with our families,” reported the website Caterersearch.

El Bulli, which last year shifted its season from April to October, to June to December, will open this year and in 2011 before closing.

El Bulli delights over the years

  • Hot frozen passion fruit whisky sour [2000]
  • Cocktail of frozen wild strawberries in matcha tea [2003]


  • Brochette of banana with bacon [1996]
  • Brick pastry and lemon parmesan skeins [2001]

Dry Snacks

  • Bread and pine nut scarves [2003]
  • Hydrated walnuts with walnut oil mayonnaise [2004]


  • Parmesan-flavoured rice pudding sorbet, black truffle, tomato and basil [1994]
  • Frozen duck foie gras quinoa with consommé [2001]


  • Breast of duckling with seaweed salt and vegetable scallops [1999]
  • Hot duck foie gras with oysters, caviar and elder flower [2001]


  • Muscovado jelly with yoghurt, passion fruit and cocoa sorbet [1998]
  • Pea jelly with banana and lime ice cream [2005]

Petit Fours

  • Emerald profiteroles [1988]
  • Chocolate lollies with pumpkin seeds croquant [2001] – guardian.co.uk