Albert Adrià is one of the most respected figures in the culinary world. Renowned for creating innovative dishes at the famed elBulli, he and with his brother turned Barcelona into a coveted dining destination. An extraordinary chef, Albert possesses the skills to create award-winning savoury and sweet dishes. Exquisite Taste was lucky to be able to speak directly with him to learn more about his passion and his first ever brick-and-mortar dessert restaurant, Cakes & Bubbles, at the legendary landmark, Hotel Café Royal London.
E: Can you share with us what keeps you busy these days?
Albert: Mainly our restaurants in Barcelona, Cakes & Bubbles in London, the project in Ibiza called Heart, as well as a 500-page pastry book that we will release at the end of the year, which will feature a selection of sweets and desserts from the last ten years of elBarri.
E: You are famous as the creative director of three Michelin-starred elBulli in Spain. Is there a certain expectation from the outside world when you open a new restaurant?
A: We could say that there is interest because the name Adrià within gastronomy is a global brand. On average, 70 percent of my clients are foreigners, but in the end, the important thing is to do the job well. Guests give you a chance due to the name and prestige, but if they don’t like it, they won’t come back.
E: In 2015, you were recognised as the World’s Best Pastry Chef. What drove you into patisserie to begin with?
A: I trained as a cook, and after almost two years, I had to change to the pastry section. Chance made the pastry chef leave, and I stayed for a while to fill the vacancy, that became 20 years. Little by little, I fell in love, and now I am one of the few examples of a savoury and pastry chef.
E: Your dessert restaurant in London, Cakes & Bubbles, has been a major attraction since it opened. What is the idea behind Cakes & Bubbles?
A: To enjoy the sweet world from a much more gastronomic perspective, without falling into regular plated desserts, and with a very personal offer. It is a project that fascinates me and is a test bench for future Cakes & Bubbles. We are pleased with the feedback from the guests.
E: Do you have a favourite dessert on the menu?
A: Many! We have five restaurants and about seven desserts on average, always changing. I love fruit, but they are also the most difficult desserts to create. I also love chocolate, like everyone else.
E: In addition to Cakes & Bubbles, you and your brother Ferran own the elBarri group, which encompasses five restaurants in Barcelona. Can you share with us the creative process that goes on when deciding to open a new restaurant?
A: In the end, there are routines that you learn, and then you apply these from one restaurant to another. Conceptualization, project development, the business numbers and finally the gastronomic model. You work with all these aspects for each restaurant in parallel.
E: What is your view on the culinary world right now?
A: No doubt nowadays we can eat better than ever before in almost all countries. At the same time, we are eating worse than ever, with more processed food full of sugars and fats.
E: Is it true that getting a prestigious accolade, such as the Michelin star, is not important to you anymore? Can you explain why?
A: I can understand why you ask me that, but I don’t really care. They can give me all the awards, recognitions and stars they want, but in the end, I work to fill the restaurants and make people happy with gastronomy. It’s my only objective.
E: For someone who often gets the chance to taste dishes created by the world’s best chefs, what is your go-to comfort food?
A: I really like vegetables, and I also love how they prepare them in Asia. I’m crazy about dim sum and seafood, which I also work with a lot. In fact, I am also working on a project for a vegetarian restaurant.
E: Is there a plan to expand your business ventures into Asia?
A: I would love to open a Cakes & Bubbles, without a doubt; it was actually born as a concept to replicate, but I still don’t know where.
The “Cheese Cake”
- 200g double cream
- 30g pasteurised egg yolks
- 30g sugar
- 100g Coulommiers cheese, cut into small pieces
- ½ gelatine sheet, soaked in cold water
- 40g cream cheese
- 36g white chocolate
- 24g hazelnut paste
- Put the cheese in a heatproof bowl. In a small, heavy saucepan heat the cream, egg yolks and sugar to 85C, while whisking constantly to create a smooth crème anglaise.
- Squeeze the water out of the gelatine and add to the crème, stir, and then pour the mixture over the cheese. Blend with a handheld electric whisk, and pass through a fine sieve into another bowl. Leave to rest for 24 hours.
- Whip 60g of the creamy Coulommiers mixture with the cream cheese. Using a piping bag and a plain nozzle, pipe into three 7.5cm-diameter rings. Freeze. Remove from the moulds once frozen.
- To cover the cakes, melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie and then mix with the hazelnut paste. Place the frozen cheesecakes on a rack and carefully coat them with the hazelnut mixture, removing any excess with a hairdryer (on a cool setting).
- Allow the coating to crystallize then, wearing gloves, drape a piece of sterile cheesecloth over each cheesecake and allow them to set.
- Carefully peel off the cheesecloth, leaving an impression of it on the surface of the cheesecake (this creates the illusion of a cheese rind).
- Leave the cheesecakes to unfreeze in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Serve with butter biscuits.
Makes 3 cakes.
Cakes & Bubbles
Hotel Café Royal
70 Regent Street
London, W1B 4DY, UK
T: (+44) 2074063310
Exquisite Taste March – May 2020