Ferran Adrià has dedicated his life to turning the deconstruction of flavor into an art form - reducing taste to its most essential and arresting before melding it in extraordinary new combinations that are at once familiar and strikingly unknown.
El Bulli, the Catalan restaurant at which Ferran has been Head Chef for twenty five years and his brother Albert a world renowned repostero for almost as long, has been named the World’s best restaurant a record five times in the last ten years by Restaurant Magazine. Adrià and his kitchen in this small provincial restaurant on the Mediterranean coast have achieved legendary status in the world of haute cuisine and are talked about in reverential tones in culinary circles.
Open for a profit-crushing six months per year, which Ferran uses for his extraordinary annual ritual of completely reinventing the menu of what is widely considered the best restaurant in the world, this Michelin three-starred restaurant receives two million reservation requests per year, only eight thousand of which it can accommodate.
This year, the Adrià brothers are returning to their native Barcelona with an audacious new double venue in the spiritual home of the city’s nightlife - El Paral·lel. Constructed in line with the Equator, in contrast with the rest of the city’s street plan, it is most renowned as the regional heartland of theatrical production, boasting three of the city’s major theatres - the Apolo, the Condal and the Victoria - and a host of smaller avant garde venues. In times past the zone was also the scene of an intoxicating nocturnal mix - nightclubs, cabarets and erotic shows.
The arrival of Tickets and 41º puts an illustrious seal of the rebirth of an area that had seen a decline in its fortunes over the last twenty years. This joint venture between the brothers Adrià and Iglesias (Juan Carlos, Borja and Pedro, themselves owners of Rías de Galicia one of Barcelona’s most prestigious traditional family run seafood restaurants) is located in the historic Flotats building, itself dating from the 1930s. The project takes nothing more than fantasy as it highest ambition, chiming perfectly with the high theatricality of its setting.
With Tickets, Adrià seeks to do for tapas what he did for the traditional Spanish culinary canon with his extraordinary deconstructions of its greatest dishes, whilst at 41º he sets his sights on the cocktail.
Adrià applies such advanced and sophisticated scientific techniques that he has been invited to give lectures on culinary physics at Harvard University. He creates an entirely new culinary vocabulary with techniques such as sphericalisation and his world renowned culinary foams - otherworldly and startlingly intense flavor essences that he fires onto the palate using nitrous oxide.
Tickets is a revolution in the tapas experience - a national cultural treasure which Spain takes as emblematic of its approach to food and therefore life. It will welcome guests with a forty meter facade dominated by huge windows featuring a display of cultural artifacts charting the history of la vida tapas, including the antique dictionary which first featured the word tapa.
Tapas’ inherent playfulness - the idea of eating as a series of visceral incidents punctuated by wine and laughter rather than a studious devouring of one dish - is entirely suited to Adrià’s own witty subversion and teasing of his diners’ expectations.
Tickets offers an experience that is as bite-sized and varied as the food it serves, with a series of self-contained areas offering an almost bewildering array of equally exquisite options. A seafood bar, with the bar itself being a seven-meter one-piece sculpture, serves the freshly caught salty delights of the Mediterranean a la Adrià, such as red shrimp and baby Norway lobster from the Costa Brava. A bar area dedicated to the art of imbibing will even feature Ferran’s own gourmet weissbier, Inedit, which he has created during a long collaboration with Estrella Damm, one of Spain’s leading brewers, and also Coca Cola, which the brothers refer to as “the spark of life”.
A loft bar will specialize in chuchis, a morsel sized bread-based tapas, offering such exotic treats as hedgehog with avocado and mint jelly and Manchego ice cream, and giving prominence to salads featuring ingredients as ingenious as Artichokes with smoked Idiazábal cheese serum. The grill area, echoing the industrial sensibility of Barcelona as a thriving port, will satisfy even the most exacting carnivore. Albert’s renowned expertise as a repostero comes to the fore in a sugar-coated wonderland replete with a big top and cotton candy machines. This sweet tapas bar offers delectable desserts, including tallaetes with cinnamon and ginger ice cream and mató with crunchy honey, and the finest Lavazza espresso.
Connected to Tickets by an intriguing corridor is 41º, which belies its modest façade with an irrepressible atmosphere and an explosion of creativity in the cocktails that fuel it. Those with serious intentions of quaffing or even giving libation can expect a classic cocktail repertoire filtered through the Adrià’s enormous imagination and fabled alchemic talents. Also on offer will be a variety of bar snacks and light meals, all bearing the hallmark Adrià culinary derring do, including sliced Parmesan ice cream and Iberian ham Airbaguette.
Perhaps Barcelona and Adrià (and his miraculous creations) represent something distinctly Catalan. Both a part of and apart from their environs - held up as shining emblems of their country and industry - Spain and haute cuisine respectively - but so completely unique and independent of spirit that they seem to be in a world of their own, this great city and this great chef are true individuals. Tickets and 41º offer a chance to enjoy both of these delicious mavericks at the same time.
- Ben Stewart
Address: Avinguda Paral·lel 164