Not one, but two tables at El Bulli

During the four years I've worked at Food Network, Daniel's Dad has asked me more than once to help him get a table at El Bulli. I'd heard about the renowned restaurant and its chef/owner Ferran Adrià five or six years ago and though I too had always dreamed about some day visiting, I knew securing a table was next to impossible -- no matter where you work.

When my Mom and I took a trip together throughout Spain a few years ago, she called months in advance and still couldn't get a reservation. So we did the next best thing and booked tables at some of the country's other renowned restaurants (Comerç 24 was my favorite). Since so many well-known Spanish chefs have trained under Adrià (or are completely inspired by him), this gave us a glimpse of his far-out, experimental cooking.

Then Clotilde wrote about her recent El Bulli experience and was kind enough to share some tips on how to get a table. Suddenly, a visit didn't feel so far-fetched.

I read about her extrordinary dinner in August, then promptly set a task reminder on my computer to send El Bulli a reservation request in mid-October. I instructed Daniel, my Mom and his Dad to do the same. We all wrote that our dates were flexible and that we'd take any day available during the five months that they are open every year. I was the first one to get rejected a few weeks later.

Apreciados Señores,
We regret not to be able to full fill more reservation requests. Our limited capacity has been surpassed at the first moment due the extraordinary demand. We apologize to you.

It is impossible for us to have a waiting list but we will be at your disposal to revise if cancellations are produced when we confirm all the reservations a week in advance.

E-mail: bulli@elbulli.com Fax: +34 972 15 07 17 Tel. +34 972 15 04 57 – (during the season, after 3.00 p.m.). Thank you for all your interest.

I wasn't too surprised or disappointed, so I forwarded the response to my Mom and Daniel and didn't think much more about it after that. A week later, Daniel forwarded us the email that he received:

We can offer you a reservation option for 5 people.

Ferran Adrià will prepare a personalized tasting menu. You will try many different elaborations and it means many different products. It is very important for his confection to know in advance if some problem exists, like allergies or any other product that we could not include for anyone of you.

I wait your news to fix the option and also with regard to this question to fix all the details at your reservation. I also ask you to give us a direct contact phone number during your time in our area.

Immediately, emails began flying as Daniel, my Mom and his Dad began figuring out if we really should hightail it to Spain in the middle of May for a single dinner. Less than two days later, my Mom received her response and she too was offered a reservation the very same week. Two tables at El Bulli? This was insane!

The best part is that Daniel's Dad, the one who has been talking the most about El Bulli for all these years never even sent in his request! I think he, like me, actually enjoyed thinking and dreaming about it but never really thought we'd get a table, let alone two in the same week. And then of course there is the flight, the cost of dinner and all those other logistical obstacles to consider.

So now, here I am, planning a sudden trip to Spain to eat at what many have claimed is the world's best restaurant. It feels exciting, adventurous and ultra spontaneous. You only live once, so I think we're going to do it. At the same time, I can't help but wonder, is it really worth it?

If you've been to El Bulli, I'd love to hear what you thought and if you recommend the experience. If you're like me and have always dreamed of going, what would you do?

Oh, and about that extra table. A lot of people have already tried to stake their claim, but I might be willing to make a deal, in exchange for, say, a round-trip ticket to Spain?

Cala Montjoi - 17480 Roses
Tel. +34 972 15 04 57

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Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!!!! That's a great Christmas present. What a great story! And how much fun. Your trip will be great. I can't wait to hear about the experience!

Anonymous said...

Can I come too?? :) I'm so jealous.

Lia said...

It is a great Christmas present, Luisa. And the news couldn't have come at a more perfect time! We were already planning a trip to Europe for my 30th birthday in September, so now it looks like we might move it up to May. I'll be sure to post about it when I'm back.

Andrea, you should read Clotilde's suggestions and do exactly what I did! If you get a few people to send in requests, you're bound to get a reservation too. Though they're no longer accepting requests this year, so you'll have to wait till next.

Chaden said...


that is insane!!! you HAVE HAVE HAVE to go. no questions asked. it is so worth the trip to spain. life is too short not to be totally spontaneous. think about the story you will always tell your children, and your children's children. i loved this post. did you see this sunday's T magazine, the one with penelope cruz on the cover? there is an article in there by a 12 year old girl who has eaten all over the world and she tells about the time she went to el bulli. there is a 32 course tasting menu! when she got tired the waitstaff made her a bed of pillows and served hot cocoa so she could sleep while her parents finished their dinner. it's a once in a lifetime chance, and you better go for it.

Anne Stesney said...

SO. COOL. Really, that's the most killer, foodiest, amazing thing I've ever heard. I can't wait to read about it.

Lia said...

Alexandra, life is so short which is why we're going to do it! I just can't help but feel guilty about spending so much money on a single dinner (Clotilde said in her post that it'll end up being about 220 euros per person). However, Per Se was approximately $200 per person for just nine courses, and El Bulli serves 30+, so in a sense, dinner there is a steal! :) I've heard from people who have gone already that it takes about six hours to get through all the courses, so it doesn't surprise me that the little girl from the NY Times article had to take a nap!

Anne, I know, it is pretty exciting! I'll be sure to write a detailed post when I get back.


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