It was voted the best restaurant in the world umpteen times, and had three Michelin stars. Two million reservations were attempted every summer that it was open. Matt Groening gave lead chef Ferran Adrià a character cameo in 2009. elBulli, which closed its doors in 2011, will go down as one of history's greatest culinary acmes, and while most of us will never sample one of the 1,846 dishes the Catalan restaurant created as it defined molecular gastronomy, we can at least spend a tenner to see Somerset House's retrospective before it closes 29th September. And then make do with a croissant afterwards.
After a successful showing in Barcelona, Adrià has bundled up years of ephemera, photos, specially-designed cutlery, and plasticine maquettes of dishes for designing plate presentation, and put it on display in what's been called the world's first art exhibition about a restaurant. I had a sneak peek this morning, and knowing how much everyone just loves Instagrams of other people's meals, I got my smartphone out and filters ready, in order to whet your appetite.
Speaking at the exhibition opening, Adrià thanked the 2,000 cooks who had worked at elBulli over the years, and said that while the restaurant is no longer open, "this exhibition will be open to the world."
While the exhibition will mostly interest those who really value their stomachs, designers will get a kick out of the branding adaptions over the years, from the simple Catalan restaurant which was first opened in 1964 by the German Hans Schilling and his Czech wife Marketa (who named the restaurant elBulli after their French bulldogs), to the multi-Michelin-starred powerhouse it was before it closed its doors in 2011.
Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food is open from July 5th to September 29th, at Somerset House in London, with tickets available for £10 now.