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Europe Food Travel

Barcelona – The Food

This is part three of my Barcelona trip – for parts one and two, please see below.

Barcelona – Lufthansa First Class and First Class Terminal
Barcelona – Mandarin Oriental, Gaudi and Mammoth Museum
Barcelona – The Food

Bread with tomato at Tapeo

Bread with tomato at Tapeo

I adored so many aspects of Barcelona – the beautiful architecture, friendly culture, amazing shopping, and more. My favorite aspect of Barcelona however, was of course, the food! It was so amazing and I would fly directly back to Spain tomorrow if I had the chance. We tried to eat at as many places as possible and I wanted to share some of my favorite spots and dishes here today.


The very first restaurants we went to in Barcelona was Gelonch, which was recommended by a friend. Since we were facing several weeks of holiday gluttony right before, I really wanted our Barcelona stay to be more about casual dining – aka no formal dress code, 2-3 star Michelin places. Gelonch was probably the most formal place we went to, but it wasn’t even truly so – jeans and trainers (albeit nicer ones) were fine here.


Gelonch is the restaurant of Robert Gelonch, who was formerly at El Bulli. The food was very impressive – very modern but not overly complicated, and with great flavors. Here were two favorites from the tasting we ordered.

The first was a little duo of onion (I think one was an amuse bouche and one was the first course of our tasting). The right was a fried onion “paper” with onion cream, while the left was a flaky croquette that was also topped with an onion cream. Delicious! Continue Reading

Europe Hotels Travel

Barcelona – Mandarin Oriental, Gaudi and Mammoth Museum

This is part three of my Barcelona trip – for parts one and three, please see below.

Barcelona – Lufthansa First Class and First Class Terminal
Barcelona – Mandarin Oriental, Gaudi and Mammoth Museum
Barcelona – The Food

After our flight landed from Frankfurt in Barcelona, we headed straight to our hotel – the Mandarin Oriental on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the major streets in Barcelona. While my husband goes to Barcelona every year, this was my first time ever in Spain. For a first time visitor to Barcelona, the Mandarin Oriental is in the perfect spot in the city center – right next to a lot of beautiful sites, great shopping and restaurants. In this post I want to share some highlights from the hotel, as well as some of our favorite sites in Barcelona.

MO Night

MO Stairs

The Mandarin has a very clean, modern feel to it with touches of Asian decor. The hotel was very airy and filled with light. Every time I walked to our room, I loved the view of the open center and all of the little windows. Continue Reading

Europe Food

El Bulli – How To Get A Reservation, Recipe Creation, and More

Once called “The Salvadore Dali of the kitchen”, Ferran Adria and his restaurant, El Bulli, processes more than 8 million reservation requests per year, while only seating 60 customers for lunch and dinner (8,000 diners yearly). It is considered the ultimate mecca for foodies and most will plan an entire Spanish vacation (not a bad punishment!) around a reservation at El Bulli.

How to get a reservation: At the end of the current dining season, El Bulli will take reservations beginning December 20th through an email system located on their site: El Bulli. The reservations will be taken in a single day, and you should hear back within 2 months or so. It is better to be very flexible on your date range, or perhaps not give any restrictions at all. If you have certain ones, check the calendar on their site for dinner/lunch servings and closures.

The El Bulli sign

How to get to El Bulli: El Bulli is about a 2 hour car ride from Barcelona, and is located in Roses, next to the sea. The restaurant overlooks the sea. You will pretty likely assume that you are lost on the way, upon which you will see the El Bulli sign.

The restaurant: The restaurant is a lovely roof tiled building, and the interior has a one which features paintings of bulldogs, in a homage to El Bulli’s name. Upon entering, you’ll have several stops before you enter the main room – Adria greets each and every diner. You’ll also be taken to the kitchen for a tour (when I was there, it was 43 chefs for 60 diners). Next stop is the terrace, which has a lovely sea view, where you’ll be presented with cocktails and snacks. The final stop is the dining room where the meal really begins. There’s been a ton written about the eating experience so I’m not going to go into it- if you want to learn more about the actual dishes, here is a good link. I think all that I need to add in this section is a quote from Adria himself: “If you know nothing about what to expect, it’s like magic.”

Adria speaking to his chefs

What comes into the preparation: Every day, there are about 40 chefs, and approximately 20-30 wait staff who work at El Bulli, a pretty good ratio considering that the restaurant only has 15 tables, or approximately 50 patrons. The chefs work with about 7,000 grams of food, of which after all is said and done, only 10% is served to customers. A schedule of the day’s preparations:

7 AM – 12 PM : Purchasing produce at local markets, getting deliveries, etc.

10 AM:               Adria arrives

3 PM:                  Cooking begins

4 – 530 PM:       Dining hall cleaning and prepation

730 PM :            Dinner service begins

Recipe creation: El Bulli is only open from June through December, for its final seasons (2010 and 2011). Traditionally in past years the restaurant was closed from October – March, and this is when the menu was created, and the process to generate and create a new menu idea could span from several hours to several months. It is rumored that the dining season has been pushed out because Adria enjoys the  fresh produce which autumn offers. Below is the 2008 menu preparation timeline, from “Un dia en elBulli.”  (A Day at ElBulli). Of course all during restaurant season, the staff and Adria will continue to evolve on recipes.

El Bulli in numbers

El Bulli in numbers:

Reservation requests per year: 8,000,000

Customers per year: 8,000

Diners for lunch and dinner: 50 people

Average staff daily: 60 people

El Bulli kitchen space: 350 square meters

Dining space: 330 meters (including terrace)

Wines on wine menu: 1,616

Styles of glassware: 55

Average final meal price per person: 230 euro (Approximately $325 US)

% of tables reserved for returning customers: 50%

Number of years the restaurant has operated at a loss: 10

I have met Ferran Adria both at his restaurant and in the United States for a speaking engagement, and he is a wonderfully charming man. He is humble, unimpressed by flashiness and show, and simply wants to cook good food and advance the field of molecular gastronomy. It is unfortunate that 2011 will be the last season for El Bulli while he takes a two year hiatus. While Adria says he will come back in 2014, it is no doubt that El Bulli will be changed. I will miss the old El Bulli but am very excited for things to come.