41° or 41 Degrees, or 41 Grados as it’s known was the hardest reservation I’ve ever secured. People talk about the French Laundry being hard to get in to. People complain about how confusing it is to snag a reservation to the Momofuku fried chicken lunch. Even Tickets is now listed as one of the toughest reservations to get. But for all 3, I learned the rules, practiced a bit and then scheduled my date for booking into my calendar and when the specific moment was right, whammo – I was able to book.
But 41° kept changing the rules. First I read 90 days in advance, (which would have been tragic, because I only started looking 70 days in advance). Then I noticed it was booking 30 days out. So I practiced and waited for my dates, but just days before I was about to try to make reservations, the site went down. It came back up 2 days later, but with a message that the reservations would be “back up in moments”.
41° had recently from being just a cocktail bar that served bar snacks to a 41 course “experience” featuring many “best of El Bulli” dishes and I really wanted in on it. I couldn’t even talk about wanting it, because I didn’t want to jinx myself. So I kept checking back to 41° website and constantly hit “refresh, refresh” waiting for the reservations to come up. When it did, it was only a week in advance. I’m not sure what it is now, but when my date finally came up, it was less than 3 weeks in advance. On the first day that I could book, I was on the computer right as the reservations were released and all that was available were reservations for 4, no 2′s. It happened again on the 2nd day, only 4′s, so this time I decided to just book and try to find another couple to join us for the experience. I posted on chowhound and within 20 minutes, I had a couple on their honeymoon who were in. And lucky for us, they were amazing dining companions looking to enjoy the meal as much as we were.
41 specifically requests on their website to only take photos for personal use and to not publish or share them. They say that it’s “very important to the Experience and we would ask you to respect our wishes when it comes to showing our work”. As much as I respect their wishes, I am also practical in writing this post. I know that the majority of people I know and want to share my experience with, will never have the opportunity to visit 41°. With only 16 diners/evening, open 5 nights a week, at 5o weeks in a year(subtracting holidays) only 4000 people a year who will get to experience what I did. To put this into perspective, the French Laundry at capacity can serve over 53,000 a year. Even El Bulli was able to serve 8000 diners over the 7 months they were open each year.
I was a bit nervous going into my meal at 41° because of the epic dinner we had at Tickets the night before. But sitting down in the very slick & modern room at 41°, I knew there would be no comparison because the two were so different. We weren’t given any menus as the servers explained that the element of surprise was integral to our dining experience. The controlling side of me cringed a bit at the thought of not knowing, but when I saw Albert Adrià behind the bar looking over our menus with the staff, I knew I would just let myself be taken on a journey by this master again.
There were 6 themes presented throughout the meal and the dishes represented each theme. Although the dinner was supposed to be composed of 41 different dishes, all in, there were over 50 elements served in this 4 hour meal.
Although every dish during the 41° experience utilized techniques created out of the El Bulli Taller/Restaurant, the ones marked with an “*” were ones that were served “as is” at El Bulli in the past.
1. Nitro Apple Mare
2. Las Olivas del 41° *
3. Orange cocktail with sweet vermouth sorbet
4. Raspberry orchid with pistachio cream
6. Solid campari
7. 41° Gin Tonic
8. Crispy seaweed with quinoa
9. Spicy corn tentacles
The Luxury Trio
10. “Joselito” Iberian Ham Sandwich *
11. Parmesan Ice Cream Sandwich *
12. Nigiri Foie Gras
The Caviar Trio
13. Belgian Endive with Almonds and Caviar
14. Caviar and Hazelnut Oil Caviar with Hazelnut Vodka Shot
15, Razor Clam with Smoked Miso and Caviar
16. Frozen Banana Daiquiri Rose
17. Sugar Cane Mojito
18. Ambar & 19. Mango Mai Tai
20. Catalunya – Rossinyol mushroom ravioli
21. Navarra – Asparagus with Crispy Cheese Powder & Chilled Soup
22. Galicia – Oyster with codium, fingerlime and oyster leaf
23. Peru – Tuna belly tiradito with “leche de tigre”
24. Mexico – Sweet corn ravioli with crispy corn
25. Japan – Tuna Temaki
25. Japan – Prawn with “miso” sauce
26. Thailand – The Coconut and the Leaf
27. China – Xa Su Bao
28. Nordic – Journey and the Carrot
29. France – Rabbit Chop with its Blood
29. France (continued) - Potato with Bone Marrow
30. Catalunya – Fava Beans with Iberian Ham Consommé
32. Mandarin Bon-Bon
32. Black Currant Profiterol
33. Moscovado Sponge Cake & Strawberry
34. Wild Strawberry with Sherry Vinegar and Mango Sorbet
35. Wasabi Lime and Ginger
35.(continued) Undocumented Drink
41° turns into a cocktail bar after the meals are finished and although we talked about coming back another night, we knew that wasn’t a likelihood so we decided to stay and keep living the fantasy.
We had another 2 cocktails each with our lovely dining companions Phillis and Ben. Thanks again for a wonderful night!
We had the first reservations of the night at 8pm and ended up staying until after 2am. I can without hesitation say that this was the greatest dining experience I’ve ever had. I am utterly amazed to not only be able to say I’ve eaten Ferran and Albert Adrià’s food, but I also loved every moment of it.
41° Experience – Avinguda Parallel 164, Barcelona Spain