Best Chefs in Barcelona
You could say Ferran Adrià is something of a big deal in the gastronomic world. Born in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona in 1962, Adrià went on to run elBulli, one of the best restaurants in the world, and has earned many accolades over the years. He is one of the most creative and highly respected chefs to have ever lived.
Adrià started off in humble beginnings, first working as a dishwasher in a hotel and then in the military as a chef for several years. His big break came when he was offered the position of line cook on the elBulli team at the age of 22. Eighteen months later he became the head chef. elBulli became one of the most highly thought of restaurants in the world, holding three Michelin stars and receiving first place in the Restaurant Top 50 five times between 2002 and 2009. In 2011, much to the despair of the culinary world, elBulli was closed.
Adrià is known for his spectacular creative streak. His food is a magnificent mixture of culinary skill and science, creating remarkable results. His food is often put in the category of ‘molecular gastronomy’, but he prefers to refer to it as ‘deconstructivist’. Adrià’s passion is to take simple recipes and play with them, changing their textures and forms. The perfect example of this is Adrià’s ‘Tortilla Española’ (Spanish omelette). Adrià starts by separating the three main components of the traditional dish – eggs, potatoes and onions. He cooks each separately, creating a potato foam, an onion purée and an egg-white sabayon. This minute dish is served in a sherry glass. These sort of playful dishes are Adrià’s speciality.
Thankfully, Adrià did not turn his back on the culinary world forever. Since the closing of elBulli, Ferran and his brother Albert have set up several ventures based in Barcelona. The chefs have taken over the once rather unremarkable area of Barcelona called Poble Sec. The ‘barri’, or suburb, has become so studded with Adrià gems that the area is now often referred to as ‘Barri Adrià’. These new tapas bars and restaurants range from the expensive to the much more affordable and casual.
We’ll start with Pakta, the Adrià brothers’ Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant. Critically acclaimed chefs Kioko Li from Japan and Jorge Muñoz from Peru, plus a dose of the Adrià magic, have combined in this kitchen to create truly magnificent results. A formal, 32-seat diner, this restaurant serves up mostly fresh fish, in a blend of Peruvian and Japanese spices. The restaurant offers either the 25 course Fujiyama menu and the longer Machu Picchu menu. Both of these tasting menus allow you to get an idea of the different flavours and products that make up Nikkei cuisine (the name given to this fusion between Peruvian and Japanese food).
Fancy something a little less formal? Pop round the corner to Bodega 1900, a less expensive and more casual affair. Styled on a traditional Spanish vermouth bar, this place produces its own vermouth, which is served alongside an array of tapas – jamón ibérico, fresh sardines, the famous Adrià ‘not-olives’. The whole place has a rustic, nostalgic feel. The walls are covered in memorabilia from elBulli such as some of the restaurant’s old menus. This is the place to go if you want a little taste of elBulli for a fraction of the price.
Another excellent Adrià-owned restaurant is Tickets, the brothers’ flagship tapas bar in Barcelona (see the Luxury Restaurants article for more information on this restaurant). It is also worth trying Niño Viejo, Adrià’s taco bar, and the more upmarket Mexican restaurant Hoja Santa, both found within a stone’s throw of all the other Adrià places in Poble Sec. In addition, pay a visit if you can to 41°, the brothers’ slick cocktail bar that sits alongside Tickets. Serving up exquisite tapas with their cocktails, this bar is another one to tick off your list on the Adrià restaurant tour of Barcelona.
Ferran Adrià and his brother Albert have become the faces of Barcelona’s gastronomy. Known throughout the world for their wonderful food, visiting one of their establishments is a must when travelling to Barcelona.