Whenever people discover that we managed a reservation several years ago for two of the coveted seats at El Bulli, they ask, “so, what’s the secret to getting a table?” I don’t know the answer to that. Mostly, it was just plain luck, I think.
Ferran Adrià talking with guests at the chef’s table in the kitchen.
But the number one thing you need to do to get a reservation is to request it by email during the proper timeframe. This year, it is October 14, 15, and 16 – that’s right now! It doesn’t matter if you’re the first person to email them. The way it works is that they queue up all of the requests together, and then Luis Garcia spends a month sorting through the reservations and filling in all of the dates for 2009. Usually, the nos start going out first, to those who requested dates on which they’re closed (so check the calendar carefully), or for whatever other reasons. In 2004, when we made our reservation, the yeses started coming in mid-November and we received ours on November 19. So you must wait patiently for the reply. I had actually forgotten about it and was shocked when the affirmative reply arrived in my inbox. I think I read it at least five times before frantically calling Eric.
What should you write in your email request? Again, I have no idea, but I can tell you that our message was polite and succinct. I wrote about two sentences giving our requested timeframe, and that was it. I wrote it in English, and also copied a translation in very poor Spanish, which I’m sure was awful given that I know only a few Spanish words. I also believe it was useless, since we discovered when we visited that they speak most common European languages quite fluently.
The only other tip I have is to be flexible with your availability. I requested any time during the last half of August, or all of September or October. This was before I knew that they were closed in October, so I effectively gave them a month and a half window of time. And then we planned our vacation after hearing back from Mr. Garcia.
While they have historically been open April through September, this year the schedule is shifting to mid-June through mid-December. My guess is that you may have better luck with those off-season fall months. Good luck! Let us know if you send in a request and whether you get in.