El Bulli, the Spanish restaurant regarded as the best in the world, is no more. The Observer reported this week that it closed with a meal for fifty people consisting of fifty courses drawn from its many years of culinary genius, all devised by chef Ferran Adrià.

I’ve never eaten in El Bulli (no shit), although I, like many others, own a copy of the big heavy book that came out (A Day at El Bulli) so that people could drool in the privacy of their own homes over food they couldn’t possibly afford. Not for nothing has this type of book been described as a form of pornography: what your taste buds do when reading this is pretty much the same thing the other end of you does when you consult what is decorously known down our way as a one-handed website.

A big mofo–The Fat Duck Cookbook

My favourite such book is The Fat Duck Cookbook, a book that’s a great deal more imaginatively named than it first appears. It’s huge—I have the first hardback edition—a big mother of a thing that weighs a ton. It’s got some chat about chef Heston Blumenthal’s life and work, a section on the restaurant and the science behind it and an impossibly detailed set of recipes. Calling it a cookbook supposes that anyone will be able to secure the relevant trace elements and mass spectroscopy hardware needed to get any of this stuff out on a plate, so to continue the analogy to the more traditional type of pornography, it’s like reading about what turns Miss October on—like you’ll ever be given a chance to test this knowledge in the field, or in this case, on the beach at dusk after a screening of Pretty Woman, away from fake people and rudeness. Snail porridge may be a famous dish, but reading about its preparation makes you appreciate all the more the effort that went into it. We’ll never manage it, and most of us will never try. We might copy some of the techniques but we’ll never get to put them all together and charge people like the big chefs and porn stars do.

Similarly the details of the last meal at El Bulli read impossibly well—the thought of tucking into an air baguette makes my mouth water despite my almost total ignorance of what the hell an air baguette is[1]. Their website features a long list of principles and aphorisms titled ‘a synthesis of El Bulli cuisine’: here’s the first bullet point:

Cooking is a language through which all the following properties may be expressed: harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humour, provocation and culture.

I’ve never been provoked by food—a woman once prodded me with a bag of chips so I have been provoked with food—but I’m willing to put myself in the hands of a chef who promises me poetry, complexity and magic. And there seemed to be quite a lot of this sort of thing on display that fateful night last week. Along with seven vintages of Dom Perignon (and if you supply even one I promise not to give a shit what sort of slop you serve up in the guise of food or philiosophy) there were several incomprehensibles, among which featured ‘parmesan frozen air with muesli’, ‘pine nuts shabu shabu’ and my personal favourite, ‘mimetic peanuts’. Not the sort of place for someone who can fake a nut allergy, then.

Heather sucks in the gut after a hectic evening at El Bulli.

This sort of food is bound to attract superlatives, not to mention the attentions of those people rich enough to jet into Roses, Spain for the privilege. Short on details of the guest list, the Observer reserved a little snipe for Hollywood bombshell Heather Graham who, having been taken by her millionaire producer beau to Spain, was seen at dinner (thankfully we are spared the details of her ingestion at the 50 course meal) decorously passing her food onto his plate and eating a strawberry kebab. Now notwithstanding the dream of a girl who’d be happy with a kebab when out on a date, I suppose this is yet another way of regarding the world of fine dining as pornography. What better way to indulge yourself than by doing so at a table with a woman your industry promotes as an ideal of some form of beauty but who is too paranoid to eat any of it? You can look but you’d better not touch, Heather. El Bulli’s tables have turned.

And finally in this fusion of food and porn, the Catalan News Agency reported last Saturday that the restaurant is opening again for a while next summer. The reason? Someone’s making a film about it. Let’s hope it’s tastefully done and Heather keeps her shirt on unless the menu specifically demands it.

Stop press: Heather spoke to reporters at the dinner, reports wwd.com, giving us a scoop almost designed for this post:
“In a cream-colored Donna Karan dress, Graham talked up her next film, an indie production co-starring James Franco called “Cherry.” The U.S. actress said, “I play a lesbian porno movie director.”
You can’t make this shit up.


[1] It’s explained in the Observer piece’s extensive and sycophantic gallery, but I’m still none the wiser, save that it features hollowed-out bread.

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