Seville: La Alqueria Restaurant in elBulli Hotel, Hacienda Benazuza

Suanne took a really long bath that afternoon before the dinner at La Alqueria. She was hogging the bathroom wanting to be the prettiest she could be for THE dinner in Spain. She is very inconsiderate. What about me? I want to look handsome too. I need to wash my hair and if I don’t dry it properly, my hair would stand out and look horrible.

Dinner was at 8:30PM. That is when they open for dinner. Dinner at 8:30PM is considered early for people in Spain. The hotel is about 18 km from Seville. 18 km only … remember that.

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So we called for a taxi from the hotel as the restaurant is located virtually in the middle of surburb. The ride took longer than we expected. It was because it was a Friday afternoon and people were heading to the beach. The highway was jammed packed with cars.

We thought we get there early so that we can check out the grounds of the five star hotel that La Alqueria is located in. Turned that out we got there right on the dot because of traffic delays.

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La Alqueria is located in a hotel called the Hacienda Benazuza elBulli Hotel.  The hotel is definite exclusive with room rates starting at €400 for low season! I almost wanted to stay at this hotel (OK, for just ONE night) to make sure we get a table at La Alqueria but as usual Suanne knock senses into me.

La Alqueria is a 2-star Michelin restaurant. To put things in perspective, there are only four 3-star and ten 2-star Michelin restaurants in Spain. The real elBulli in Roses near Barcelona is 3-star. This one is 2-star.

When we got there, the taxi driver said the total ride was €53. But the meter was saying about €40. He said that he gotta to charge extra because the elBulli hotel was out of the way. I wasn’t in the mood to challenge him but I should have. You will know why we were overcharged later on this post. After all it was just a 18km ride.

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The La Alqueria is not a very big restaurant. We counted about 12 tables only. It is undoubtedly exclusive because despite the low number of tables, they only have 1 seating a night. They don’t turn the tables at all.

Alright, I know I mentioned this to death but I will mention it again for our reader who stumble onto this post. The elBulli near Barcelona had been the #1 restaurant in the world for many years. It is run by Ferran Adria who is the man who had the biggest influence on modern gastronomy of any chef in the world. The Times had said:

To describe elBulli as “a restaurant” is like describing Shakespeare as “a writer”.

The La Alqueria is opened in 1998 about five years after the original elBulli was built. elBulli achieved it’s 3-star Michelin rating a year before La Alqueria was opened.

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We have a server assigned to out table. Oh boy, she is one serious no-nonsense dude. Very prim, very proper. Whatever you ask for she will say “very good”, “of course” and “immediately”. The thing is that her English is not too good. I had a problem understanding what she was saying and she had difficulty with my questions.

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As soon as we got seated our server gave us cold towels. We … errr … did not know what to do with that. Wipe the hand? Wipe the face? What? So with our nose held up high, we used the towel to wipe our hands … but it would have been nice to wipe the face too.

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The sommelier came next talking with us for … our wine selection. Well … we don’t drink and also we were kind of afraid to look at the prices too. That’s the truth. The sky is the limit when in comes to wine, especially in a two-star Michelin restaurant in a five-star hotel.

So we said, “Oh …. errr … water is fine”.

“Excellent” the sommelier said.

And to our surprise he brought the “Water Menu”!!!

The water menu was fancy. It is a scroll rolled into a couple of tubes in an ice-bucket.

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The cheapest water is €3.50.

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And the most expensive is €10.

The menu is way too technical for us listing the sodium, calcium and what nots contents. It was pretty meaningless to us.

Since are here, we decided to “splurge” on the best they have. It was sparkling water.

Go back to three pictures up where the ice buckets are … you see the bucket on the right? Well, that was our water.

Fancy huh?

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There are NO choices dining at La Alqueria. No ala carte menu. Everyone has the same thing — only ONE tasting menu. And they won’t even tell you what they will serve on the day. You will discover it when you turn up. On reservation, they will tell you that it will be a menu of:

  • 4 snacks and tapas
  • 5 dishes
  • 1 dessert
  • 2 morphings

The tasting menu is €110 which is about $170 Canadian. We were passed the menu and they described the meal for the day. It went woosh over our head because we couldn’t really understand what our server was saying as she describes our evening.

The menu in Al Laqueria consists of previous years favourites from elBulli. For the latest and current tasting menu, you got to go to elBulli. Note that there are over 30 courses  in elBulli’s tasting menu while we have only 12 courses here.

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Tapas and Snacks #1 is the Spherical Green Olive. I see this a lot in many elBulli reviews and it seems like it is a standard in starting an elBulli meal.

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We were instructed on how to eat each of the servings. For this, we are to eat it in just one bite so that the “olive” liquid will burst instantly in the mouth, releasing a pure, intense essence of olive that accentuates the natural qualities of fresh green olives.

One thing I want to point out is that all the utensils used here are designed around the food. So you get very unique cutleries and elBulli logo’d (see the handle above).

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They left the whole jar on the table. Even though we were not real fans of olives, we took quite a few until they took the whole jar away. Yeah, Suanne said that I am so “cheapo”.

It was an interesting start.

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The Snack and Tapas #2 is the elBulli’s take on the favourite Spanish sandwich … the Iberian Ham Baguette.

Instruction was to eat this with the hands. So we picked it up at the center and bite from the sides. Then we looked around the other tables. They were ALL picking it up by the ends instead of the oily center. Oh well … when we grow up, we will learn to eat like them.  Someday.

For now, we just enjoy the moment the way we want.

The so-called baguette is actually hollow with the outsides crispy and crunchy. It was like a fresh baguette being hollowed out inside. It was excellent. The crunch of the baguette just explodes in the mouth. The ham had a texture that is smooth with a rich savory taste.

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The Snacks and Tapas #3 was simply called the Natural Prawn.

It is again eaten by hands. We were told to eat this in three bites, each giving a different experience. We start with the tail, then the body and the head, including the claws.

It looked natural without any marinates and all and yet its simplicity shows through on each bite of the pure taste of the prawn. Each section presented a different texture. The best part was the head.

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Snacks and Tapas #4 is called the Deconstructed Omelette Potatoes. This is elBulli’s take on another favourite Spanish dish called Tortilla de Patatas.

Foams. That is what elBulli is famous for. It came served in a martini glass.

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Our server was busy and did not tell us what to do. So we delicately scrap off the top of the foam and eat down.

It was like we did something wrong because the sommelier who was nearby seeing what we were doing stopped us. He told us to dig in to the bottom and eat it by the spoonful so that we taste all the elements together. I like the way they said it … “elements”!

We have never tasted “elements” something equivalent to this. I mean, the taste is familiar and yet we could not really pinpoint what it is.

Alright, I am going to stop here for today and continue tomorrow with the rest of the meal. This post is getting too long.

Come back tomorrow?

Part 2 of this post continues here.

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  1. can’t wait

  2. Just curious, are you guys allergy to wine? Is that why you don’t drink?

    1. I break out in rashes if I had too much. Suanne is OK.

  3. I thought you will explain the taxicab fare at the end of this post?

    1. You are sharp! Well, I intended to complete the blog post yesterday but ran out of steam by the time I got to “Snacks and Tapas”. I’ll let you know more the taxi fare in the next post.

  4. I will be in Seville in December. How does one make reservations for this restaurant. Thanks.

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