El Bulli – Irresistible

BY Lisa Lindblad

December 11, 2009


1961. It all began with a minigolf installation… Doctor Hans Schilling, a German homeopathic doctor, and his wife Marketta, Czechoslovakian in origin but German byadoption, came to Roses at the end of the 1950s, and having fallen in love withCala Montjoi, they decided to buy a piece of land there. The setting for the building that the doctor and Marketta occupied is a hundred metres uphill from where the restaurant was to be located. Mrs Schilling was already serving meals before the establishment existed, organising barbecues in the open air, whichat times was frowned on. At that point, our link with the story begins with a planning permission license for a minigolf installation, dated June 1961. The name chosen for their business (which came into use at some unspecified time)was El Bulli, since the Schillings had some French bulldogs, a breed colloquially known as “bulli”.

1963….which later became a beach bar. Forjust over a year, El Bulli operated as a minigolf installation, but very soon,because of Cala Montjoi’s popularity as a scuba diving location for European enthusiasts who were in the area, the Schillings installed a beach bar. JoséLozano, from Cordoba, who has been in the area since the beginning, built athatched hut which served as a meeting point for bathers and scuba divers, and was known in Roses as the “German bar”.

1964. The first restaurant. In 1964, after akitchen and a covered patio, which doubled as a dining area, were built, aGrill-room was installed in El Bulli, which was run by Otto Müller, fromSwitzerland, until 1966. This was the first restaurant. From that year on,various people ran the place, that served simple dishes such as roast chicken,leg of lamb and grilled fish. Gradually more elaborate dished appeared on themenu, thanks to Doctor Schilling’s interest in gastronomy; the doctor, whospent most of the year in Germany, used to go to the continent’s finestrestaurants, from which he would bring ideas that were gradually adopted insubsequent years.

1970-1975. An ever-increasing choice. From 1970onwards, El Bulli went from strength to strength as a restaurant. Many moreFrench dishes began to be served, including flambéed sea-bass with fennel,prawns in Pernod, double entrecôte with béarnaise sauce and emincé of beefStroganoff. Whenever Dr Schilling returned to Roses in the autumn, he wasalways pleased to see the progress made in the restaurant under Marketta, andeach time he would bring new ideas, items, including products that were difficult to import at that time.

1975-1980.The Neichel era. The arrival ofJean-Louis Neichel in 1975 changed El Bulli’s way of working and brought newperspectives that were to be consolidated over the years; in 1976 El Bulli wasawarded its first Michelin star. During the winter closure months, Dr Schillingencouraged his chef to visit great European restaurants, and negotiated a stintfor Neichel to work with the great Alain Chapel, whose restaurant, La mèreCharles, held the guide’s highestaccolade. Subsequent seasons’ offerings were clearly marked by theseinfluences.

1981. The arrival of Juli Soler. At the end ofthe 1980 season, Neichel decided to move to Barcelona, and a little later JuliSoler arrived to take over the management of El Bulli. Juli appointed YvesKramer, Neichel’s assistant, as head chef. The same year Jean-Paul Vinay wastaken on as Kramer’s assistant, although after a few months, they exchangedroles and Vinay became head chef.

1961-1982.Some menus of the time. The menus wehave kept from that period show the restaurant’s tourist slant in thebeginning, and the gradual appearance of more sophisticated dishes inspired, aswas de rigeur in the 1970s, by Frenchhaute cuisine.

For continued history, please go to the El Bulli website below.
Located 177 km from Barcelona,75 km from Girona and 80 km from Perpignan.

Reservations are required and virtually impossible to obtain. Should you wish a reservation for June 15-December 20, 2010, please contact us and we will request on your behalf.

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The Mallmann Diaspora