El Bulli is undoubtedly one of the most famous restaurants in the world, renowned not just for the quality of its food, but for the way that chef Ferran Adria reinvented ingredients and presented food in an astoundingly innovative fashion using techniques that have come to be known as molecular gastronomy. El Bulli was not an easy restaurant to get a reservation at (and was definitely a splurge if you could get one!) and closed in February 2011. This left chef Adria to pursue new culinary adventures in Barcelona. He currently has two restaurants there. Tickets is a casual fine dining experience and 41 Degrees, next door to Tickets, was supposed to be a low key tapas bar serving traditional tapas and a few small El Bulli bites. I was excited about the possibility of tasting some of Chef Adria’s creations when in Barcelona and I headed out to 41 Degrees to give it a try.
I had a little bit of a surprise because about 5 days before I arrived in Barcelona, Chef Adria changed the concept of the restaurant. It went from a no-reservations tapas bar to a 16-seat fine dining restaurant serving a 41 course tasting menu. Reservations required, of course. Nowhere near as expensive as El Bulli was, either. The concept was so new (and so unadvertised) when I was there that I might have actually been able to get it, but since I had no idea that the restaurant changed from a tapas menu to a tasting menu, I never got the chance.
After the tasting menu diners clear out, 41 Degrees turns back into a regular bar and that is where I walked in: confused at the concept change, disappointed that I didn’t try to get seats at the restaurant (and that they didn’t serve food at the bar) and ready to try one of the chef’s cocktails. A cocktail bar doesn’t sound that revolutionary here, but few bars in Barcelona seem to serve anything more complicated than a gin & tonic unless it’s a hotel bar that really focuses on international (and American) clients.
I wish I could share some amazing food with you in this account of my trip to 41 Degrees, but I only have the cocktails to share this time around. I ordered an Amelie, a cocktail made with green tea -infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, Lillet blanc, pear liqueur, pineapple water, cinnamon and mint. It came out looking pretty and pink in a large curvy glass, and had a lovely floral, fruity flavor. I suspect that there might have been a bit of egg white in the drink because the foam on top maintained its shape very well, but at the time I didn’t think to ask. I’d order it again on looks alone, although a glance around the busy bar told me that every drink was as attractively presented.
This next drink was an old fashioned, a choice prompted by the pitch that the staff gave us about how the chef had carefully trained the staff in making cocktails – even the “classics.” I will admit that it didn’t come out exactly right because it was very heavy on the bourbon and skipped out on the maraschino cherry that usually comes in an old fashioned. It was still good and worth ordering just for the ice: one large, perfectly shaped cube with the bar’s logo captured inside.
The bar portion of 41 Degrees is open from about 10pm to 2am and seating is open, so there is lots of time to stop by for a drink if you can’t score a dinner reservation. If you want to try to make a reservation at the restaurant portion of 41 Degrees, you can do it through the website http://www.41grados.es/en//. Tickets restaurant reservations can also be made online at the same site.