6 January 2009
By Douglas Blyde
ALONG WITH 899 fans I recently ventured to the South Bank to hear the world's most famous chef reveal the mechanics behind his mysterious cooking.
Ferran Adrià masterminds a form of high impact cuisine more akin to astronomy than gastronomy. His plates are meticulously playful: a provocative redefinition of the grammar of cooking, both intellectually and elementally. A past example: Kellogg's Paella (Rice Crispies, shrimp heads and vanilla-infused mashed potatoes), and closh couture for the next season: coconut milk rolled into shape in a balloon membrane, frozen over liquid nitrogen.
His deliberately deceptively rustic looking restaurant, 'ElBulli' (a former mini golf centre) provides the less than haute vantage in a bay in Roses, Costa Brava. How incongruous to find groundbreaking three Michelin star cooking along that 'rugged' coast. Here up to 38 choice-free courses are cooked by 42 chefs (for 50 guests). The Costa is perhaps best (or worst) known for having being set aside by a 1950's Franco as sunny territory 'suitable for substantial development as a holiday destination'. Thinking about Adrià's cooking - a fusion into delusion - I would prefer to connect it with one of its famous former residents rather than the sprawl of concrete hostels beloved by package holiday tourists departing pasty shores. Salvador Dalí's home is in Cadaqués although if you intend to visit an artist's paradise, bear in mind that you need to make a reservation months in advance.
Such forward planning pales in comparison with linen hire at ElBulli, however. Such is Adrià's appeal that every year a minimum of two million chase just 8,000 places with pleading e-mails (even though only half that number are allocated to new customers). And if you win that lottery (I am yet to) it is worth noting that some diners apparently leave their meals partway in tears. The strain of the occasion - the knowledge that this is most likely the meal of their life - is too great.
Fortunately this month's wine recommendation, also from the Costa Brava is easily found, providing stress free intoxication. Mar d'Amunt '06 is a dense purple blend of sun-drenched, wizened, 100 year old Carignan and Grenache vines. It has glamorous aromas of violet perfume, a hint of salt, graphite and wild Catalan herbs. The texture is firm and finespun. (£8.91, Bibbendum, www.bibendum-wine.co.uk)
Douglas writes 'intoxicatingprose.co.uk'
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