That translates to Ferran Adrià and elBulli. Risk, Freedom and Creativity. This new exhibition was created by the Generalitat de Catalunya to celebrate 50 years of elBulli and is currently being held at Palau Robert in Barcelona, with free entry. As I never managed to secure a reservation at elBulli while it was open and still very curious about the whole experience, we popped in to have a look around; while we didn’t have much time, we still managed to see some of the high points in the exhibition.

It started with a bulli, of course; the restaurant was named for the French bulldogs owned by the Schillings, who opened the first restaurant back in 1964 (originally a mini golf place with a beach bar). The first section of the exhibition focused on the history of the restaurant, featuring lots of old menus, photographs and even bits and pieces from the chefs’ childhoods – I was surprised to see artifacts such as school identification cards!

El Bulli

I was impressed with the unique and creative ways in which all the ideas and the experience at the restaurant were portrayed – for example, a video table showed what a meal would be like at the restaurant in recent years prior to its closure.

Video Table

It was at this wall that I wished I had more time. This chronological display wrapped around a few rooms and showed the vast number of techniques developed at elBulli across the years.

Chronological Wall of Techniques

The wall was also my undoing: the exhibition was becoming quite overwhelming by this point. The restaurant was known for their meticulous records of all the dishes they created and the research going towards them and while I would have loved to spend time going through it all, it just felt like a lot to take in. There were exhibits on everything related to elBulli, from their techniques to the tools they used and created to their plating of dishes. Everything elBulli. I reckon I didn’t see over 90% of the things on display.

A life size video of Ferran Adrià in a simple room calmed things down a bit and was a brief respite from even more full-on elBulli exhibits.

Life Size Ferran Adrià Video

We were amused to see that hilarious clips from the Catalan TV3 political satire show Polònia were also being shown at the exhibition. Of course, these featured Ferran Adrià and the actor portraying a mock Adrià; it was lovely to see Adrià’s sense of humour! If you’re interested, it looks like some of the clips (in Catalan) are on YouTube.

I was just as tickled to see the birthday cake card designed for elBulli by Escribà, a well known pastisseria in Barcelona, …

Birthday Cake

… and the beautiful tray of petit fours served at the end of a meal. Just as they close a meal, this and a small display dedicated to the last service at the restaurant were to close the exhibition.

Petit Fours

According to the website, the exhibition will travel to New York and London but until February next year, it will be in Barcelona. I do recommend a visit if you’re a fan and I’d also recommend either setting aside quite a bit of time or visiting a few times to cover it all. I’m planning on returning and spending more time there.

Ferran Adrià i elBulli. Risc, llibertat i creativitat
at Palau Robert until 3 February 2013
Centre d’Informació de Catalunya
Passeig de Gràcia, 107
08008 Barcelona
Spain