11 September 2013 § Leave a comment

The culinary gods were on my side. With just two free hours to spare, we stumbled on the elBulli Exhibition at Somerset House in London and had time for a whirlwind tour of Borough Market.


I never ate at elBulli. But I did get to see the exhibition. It would have been torture if I had not eaten such a huge brunch that morning. Do not go there  hungry.

The exhibition charted the evolution of elBulli from its roots in 1964 as a coastal restaurant, complete with mini golf,  run by a couple – Dr Hans Schilling and his wife, Marketta. The Schillings were always serious about food and were awarded a Michelin star in 1967. The restaurant was named after Mrs Schilling’s  bulldog  – Bulli. To honor Bulli there was a larger than life model of him made out of meringues.


Ferran Adrià started working at elBulli in 1984. He was put in sole charge of the kitchen in 1987 and went on to own the place and garner two more Michelin stars for elBulli. With his experimental cooking and his genius he has become one of the most influential figures in the culinary world. He has changed the way many chefs cook.

The food photography was glorious in its Technicolor brilliance. It showed how many of his dishes have deconstructed old classics to make something completely new.


There was a multimedia projection that showed the three ways of getting to Cala Montjol, a small picturesque bay on the Catalan coast near Roses – by air, sea or car. Rolling through the Spanish scenery each route was visually beautiful and accompanied by the sounds of that trip.

Ferran Adrià’s genius was evident throughout the exhibitions: from the hundreds of plasticine models of each component of every dish; the handwritten notes and hand-drawn sketches to the specially commissioned original silverware and serving dishes.

There are important elements to Adria’s philosophy: creativity, purity, honesty, freedom, risk, sharing and memory. Diagrams illustrate that a dish may have been developed years ago – an omelette being one example –  it’s the concept of what you can do with it, how you move on, what you create, that becomes the art form.  The same idea is communicated through this drawing of the Romans creating a miniskirt, however it was Mary Quant who moved it on to become an art form.


My favorite part was the installation that had a table, set with a white damask tablecloth, and chairs from the original restaurant. There was a sound system that had background noise recorded from the restaurant.  There was a projection on the table of each course being placed, by slightly spooky hands, on it in front of you, with a spoken recorded description of it.

The exhibition is only there until the end of September. Go if you can, but don’t go hungry.




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