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El Bulli restaurant closes its doors

El Bulli restaurant has been called the best restaurant in the world, but now it closes its doors to make way for a reincarnation in the form of a foundation.

By CIARAN GILESAssociated Press / July 31, 2011

El Bulli owner, Ferran Adria, gestures during a photo opportunity with his team in Cala Montjoi, near Roses, Saturday. World-renowned and award-winning restaurant El Bulli will be closed down till 2014 to make way for a culinary research centre, the El Bulli Foundation.

Albert Gea/Reuters

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El Bulli, one of the world's most acclaimed and award-winning eateries, has served its last supper.

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On the final menu Saturday were 50 dishes with intriguing names like "Clam Meringue," ''Olive Spheres," and "Hot Cold Gin Fizz."

For more than half of the 24 years that virtuoso chef Ferran Adria has been in charge of its kitchen, the restaurant has maintained the almost unattainable Michelin three-star status and been rated the world's best restaurant five times by British magazine The Restaurant.

After a final dinner and drinks party for faithful clients and staff families, Adria will close down the restaurant and begin turning it into a top level cuisine foundation he hopes to open in 2014.

"People think I should be sad but I feel the happiest man in the world," said Adria. "El Bulli is not closing. It's just transforming."

He himself will not be sitting at a table for dinner on the final night.

"No, I'll be cooking!" he said.

El Bulli's location in a beautiful and isolated seaside cove on Spain's far northeastern tip inspired Adria, who started off as a hotel dishwasher, to think about the essence of what makes food taste delicious, prompting him to deconstruct ingredients to what he calls the molecular level.

He would then reconstruct each dish using unexpected re-combinations of the original components, presenting them in mouthful-sized portions.

Most required instructions on how to eat them, sometimes with bare hands.

Food took on unexpected shapes, textures and temperatures as the chef used liquid nitrogen to produce vegetable or fruit foam, airy, ethereal reincarnations of solid food, combining seaweed and tea, or caviar with jellied apples.

His "bunuelo de llebre" is a small ball whose external surface is a chilled delicate pastry that conceals "hot liquid hare which you must bite into with your lips closed," enabling its caramel-like taste to explode inside your mouth.

The restaurant's average price of €270 ($388) per head — not including drinks, tax or tips — was another of its distinctive features.

The diner could boast more than a million reservation requests yearly at a place that seated just 50 and opened for dinner only, usually just six months a year.

The other six months were used by Adria to travel the world in search of ideas and then to conceive and painstakingly practice preparing dishes that have astounded gastronomy critics and dedicated foodies alike.

"El Bulli will be opening again, just not for reservations," said Adria at a farewell press conference in the rock garden outside his restaurant surrounded by dozens of colleagues, former and current.

Among them were some of the most famous chefs to come out of the restaurant — current world No. 1 Rene Redzepi of Denmark and Chicago's Grant Achatz.

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