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This Shuttered Spanish Restaurant Was Once the Best in the World. Now It’s Reopening as a Museum.

You won't be able to eat at El Bulli, but you'll get to learn about the former Michelin three-star restaurant's legacy.

Ferran Adria Alberto Ortega/Europa Press via Getty Images

When the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià closed the Michelin three-star El Bulli in 2011, it was at the height of its powers. As such, the announcement sent shock waves through the culinary industry. But now the restaurant long regarded as one of the best in the world is getting ready to reopen—as a museum.

In June, Adrià will open El Bulli 1846, as the project is being called, according to The Times of London. It will be a space that aims to preserve the legacy of the restaurant and function as an experimental laboratory, in line with what the establishment once was.

“It is a museum where we explain what El Bulli did to make it have the success it had and still has. A restaurant that marked a paradigm shift in western gastronomy,” Adrià told Spanish newspaper El País. “El Bulli will be seen just as it was. The people who knew it will be moved. Nothing will be eaten. It is important to keep the legacy of what happened.”

Ferran Adriá in El Bulli's kitchen around 2022
Ferran Adrià in El Bulli’s kitchen circa 2022 Thomas Vilhelm/Cover/Getty Images

El Bulli first opened in 1964, with Adrià taking over the kitchen in 1987. It earned three Michelin stars in 1997 and was consistently lauded as the crème de la crème of restaurants, with Adrià becoming one of the biggest names in the molecular gastronomy movement, thanks to his dishes like liquid chicken croquettes and gazpacho popsicles. When the restaurant shut down in 2011, Adrià said it had “become a monster that had to be tamed and transformed.”

“If El Bulli had remained open, it could have hit bottom,” Adrià told El Pais more recently. “If we had continued creating at that level, we would have had a lapse. I avoided it, I anticipated failure with the closure, although you can’t say what would have happened.”

Initially, El Bulli was set to reopen three years after shuttered as a foundation for culinary experimentation, but the plans were blocked after environmental objections (the restaurant is located in the Cap de Creus nature park). Adrià scaled back his ambitions, and now visitors will be able to return to the site of culinary history. Whether it will be worth the more-than-a-decade-long wait remains to be seen.

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