Part 4 -- Impressions and Aftermath (El Bulli -- Roses, Spain)
Read Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3
This is the final installment of the El Bulli saga, and I'm sure you're all as relieved to see it end as I am. There are some things missing from the previous posts that I felt warranted mentioning before I put this bad boy to bed.
First of all, one thing Jon and I were particularly surprised to discover (and the thing that seems to shock everyone else when we mention it) is that you feel like total shit the day after eating at El Bulli. No one that we knew who had been to the restaurant let us in on this one. Actually, I'm beginning to think our friends don't like us, between this and the taxi thing. Anyway...one could chalk this nastiness up to too much drinking, but since we had our own vehicle to navigate back down the mother fucking winding road of death, we were fairly conservative in our imbibing and cannot blame alcohol. We also had to get up early, to catch a flight to Paris (or so we thought -- we ended up being delayed 3 hours. Fucking EasyJet!). Still, we managed about 6 hours of sleep, which is about what we were tending to get at home those days, so we can't blame sleep deprivation either.
No, none of those things were the cause of the shit-feeling. Our assessment? The body was not designed to ingest that many chemicals in one meal. I remember the drive back to Barcelona, roundabout after fucking roundabout, being filled with burps that tasted like we'd quenched our thirst at a toxic spill. Stomachs distended, our conversation on the road to the airport consisted mostly of us saying "Wow, I feel like crap," "Yeah, me too." Repeat.
Next question: Do I think it's the best restaurant in the world? In a word, no. Top Five? Sure. I certainly have not eaten at all of the best restaurants in the world, but I've been lucky enough to experience a handful. El Bulli loses the number one spot in my book because, well, everything doesn't taste good. I appreciate what they are doing there, and as I said in Part 3, I love that they are pushing the boundries of cuisine and using their diners as guinea pigs. This makes it the most unique restaurant I've ever been to, and there is something to be said for testing out something that has never been done with food before. This makes it the best culinary experience I've ever had, but the best restaurant? No.
The best restaurant that *I've* been to is Alinea. And without El Bulli, there would be no Alinea so there you have it. Why Alinea? Because Grant Achatz is still testing the boundries of cuisine, but it doesn't hit the dining room unless it actually tastes good. Make that great. What I loved about Alinea is that I enjoyed every single bite of my meal. Not so at El Bulli.
Would I go back? Fuck, yeah. The thing about El Bulli is that they like to play, and they like to challenge and be challenged. You will never have the same dish twice if you return (they keep track of everything you've ever eaten there, and never serve it to you again unless you specifically request it). And while there certainly were things that did not rock my world, the things that did were worth the flight, the crazy roads of Spain, the hotels, the mother fucking winding road of death, the cost, the feeling like shit and the delay to Paris.
Perhaps that is why it took me so long to get through writing about it. I didn't want to let it go. Holding our breath, waiting for a reservation, getting the reservation, waiting 10 months for the reservation, planning an entire European adventure around the reservation...the whole thing was a pretty big fucking deal to us.
It was the experience of a lifetime.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld