We are seeing a new wave of food concepts from high-profile chefs who are thinking beyond the confines of the traditional dining room.
— Jason Clampet
Albert Adrià is an unlikely champion of healthy eating.
He’s known for fabulous desserts that are rich in looks and content. They first grabbed attention at El Bulli – a record five times winner of the World’s Best Restaurant title – where he worked with his brother Ferran. And they even have their room in Albert’s Barcelona restaurant Tickets, an international destination for food lovers. Diners move into the La Dolça room for sweet treats.
And now those treats have come to London, after Adrià opened his first bricks-and-mortar restaurant outside Spain, Cakes and Bubbles, at Hotel Café Royal. There will be many desserts, but not all of them too fattening or sweet.
“I am very conscious about health issues,” Adrià said in an interview. “OK, there are some traditional recipes where you can’t take out the sugar: an ice cream or a cheesecake or a chocolate cake. But with the recipes that we are creating, in those recipes you can have the lowest sugar possible and the lowest fat content, too.”
Lots of chefs talk about creating something new, but Adrià is a radical chef known for innovation. He was voted The World’s Best Pastry Chef in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards and has stepped out from behind his brother’s shadow. His seven restaurants include the always-sold-out Tickets; and Enigma, which is divided into seven rooms where diners progress from space to space as they make their way through the lengthy tasting menus.
Adrià’s most famous dish is probably the Tickets Cheesecake, shown above. It is based on Coulommiers (similar to Brie), which it resembles in appearance. But it’s a mousse somewhere between Coulommiers and white chocolate, with a flavor and texture closer to cheese than cake.
He is planning to take it off the menu in Barcelona so that diners have to visit London to try it.
And then there is the Robuchon cake, a tribute to French chef Joël Robuchon, who died in August. It’s a crunchy meringue with beetroot and yuzu. Or how about the Air Pancake, which features yogurt foam piped in with gas? And two kinds of chocolate cake. Classics such as egg flan with dark caramel and homemade donuts will be served alongside fruit cakes, including pineapple with palm honey.
Adrià prefers to serve a selection of cakes paired with sparkling wines, rather than for guests to just order a slice.
“It’s not going to be a patisserie and it is not going to be a dessert restaurant, but something in between,” he said. “My inspiration is the dessert room I have at Tickets. So the guests when they finish their savory part they are moved to another room and they can share three or four desserts and then maybe have one themselves.”
Once he gets it right in London, he’s open to the idea of rolling out Cakes and Bubbles internationally.
Adrià is in good company in London. French chef Pierre Hermé has stores in London; and Alain Ducasse recently opened a chocolate shop at the new Coal Drops Yard.
But they don’t have that Tickets Cheesecake.
Richard Vines is chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.
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