El Bulli — Best Restaurant in the World

Some of you foodies would know that the best restaurant in the world is a restaurant near Barcelona, Spain called El Bulli. Suanne and I had tried to get a reservation last year but failed to get one simply because we put in our reservation way too late.

So, this year, we marked it down on our calendar and put in our reservation request on the day and hour the reservation booking is opened for 2009. We waited … and … waited … and just a few days ago, they responded.

When we received the email response from El Bulli, we sort of knew what it was. Legend has it that if El Bulli responded within 2-3 weeks from submission of reservation requests, it is a “Sorry” response. Now, if they take 1-2 months to respond, then you’ve a great chance of landing a reservation.


Shoot! Dashed again. Better luck next year huh?

Let me share with you what I know about El Bulli which I am sure will amaze you as much as it did Suanne and I.

El Bulli had won the best restaurant in the world for a record four times, three of which was in the last three years. You would be surprised to learn that they only open FIVE months in a year from July to December. Can you imagine that? So what happens during the off season? Well, that is when El Bulli goes around the world discovering and concocting the taste for next year. So, every year’s menu is different.

Image from El Bulli.com
Image from El Bulli.com

I read somewhere that for a meal in El Bulli, you will need to bring along $1000 for two people. What you get for the money is a 39-course dinner. Many of the course are many small spoonful courses but still I understand that it will take upwards of 5 hours to do … with breaks in between. Check out this report if you want to find out more about El Bulli’s meal.

Reservations are opened in mid-October for seating in summer the following year. Each year they only have 8000 seats available but 800,000 reservations were received within the first few days of reservation opening. Can you imagine that?

Would you go to that length for a meal at the best restaurant in the world? i.e. pay that kind of money, go half way round the world for just once in your life? Suanne and I would. Of course, we’ll wrap that meal with a vacation around the area in Europe. Better luck next year.

Update: If you can’t get a sitting at El Bulli, there is a second best option. In south of Spain in the city of Seville, there is a sister restaurant called La Alqueria. La Alqueria is a 2 Michelin Star restaurant and they serve some of Ferran Adria’s creation from El Bulli from previous years. Suanne and I dined in the La Alqueria in the summer of 2009. Our blog entry is here and here. Fabulous dinner!

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  1. Jessica

    That would be SO cool to do! It’s a once in a life time thing so why not spend $1000! I’m tempted to go down to Vegas again just because I miss the Rio buffet, but I was told I’m crazy!

  2. koji

    I don’t think it’s $1000 for 2 people, maybe if you have a wine paring, it might, i’ve never been, but there’s a great youtube vid with Anthony Bourdain you should check out. Since you can’t get in, you should head to Chicago and try Alinea (24 courses) or Charlie Trotters or Rick Tramonto’s Tru. i’d pick Alinea first, then Tru before Trotters.

    check out some food blogs on Alinea, it also is Molecular Gastronomy.

  3. KimHo

    Since the cooking methods of El Bulli is mainly based on the so-called molecular gastronomy, have you considered the next best option (which happens to be also considered the second best restaurant int the world), The Fat Duck?

    Having said that, although I would fork $1000 in a meal, I would not fork $1000 on THIS particular meal. I am not sure if I can explain it but it has to do with the description of a meal there and things like “deconstructed” this, “foam” that. For example, if a tortilla española (a Spanish potato omelette) is broken down into its ingredients, cooked separately and brought back together, can it still be considered an omelette? (Come to think about this, a lot of restaurants nowadays do the same so this type of criticism is no particular to El Bulli).

  4. Brant

    Sometimes it’s just marketing… and presentation of course. Does it really taste like the best thing you ever had? That’s unrealistic expectation since everybody’s palette is so different, depending on which region you grew up and what food you were trained to eat as a kid.

    Most of my Japanese friends always complain food is greasy. Most of my Chinese friends don’t dig food with lots acid in it, “too sour” they say. Thai people absolutely like acid in general.

  5. anna

    Wow, I didn’t even know of such a popular restaurant. But I must say that it is a “once in a lifetime” thing to do. If the waiting list is that long and the price is that high, there must be something good that they’re doing. I think it’s totally worth it, especially for the fact that the restaurant is in a city like Barcelona. Keep trying Ben!! You’ll get there! 😀

  6. Jaun Millalonco

    Excellent YouTube post ! thanks for sharing. I’ll be adding your blog to my reader.

  7. Bobo

    No, I don’t know where you heard about the $1000 price tag, that’s not true at all, it’s currently 220 US dollars. In a recent comparison of 3 Michelin star restaurants, el Bulli came out as one of the least expensive, especially since it’s 35+ course meal with no rush at all.

    Please remember that it is a non-profit making restaurant; they lose money on the restaurant and make profits by bookselling, catering and lecturing/teaching.

    1. Ben

      Hi Bobo:
      You are right. Coincidentally, we dined at the El Bulli Hotel (La Alqueria) near Seville last night. It was a 12 courses of some of Ferran Adria’s creations over the past few years. 110 euros per person.

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