Wines from elBulli, Adria dinner fetch nearly $1 mln at N.Y. auction

NEW YORK, April 27 Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:16pm EDT

NEW YORK, April 27 (Reuters) - Food lovers dug deep on Friday night and spent a total of more than $900,000 at an auction on pieces of Catalonia's famed elBulli restaurant, from wines to cutlery to dinner with its head chef, Ferran Adria.

The auction at Sotheby's, featuring some 625 lots from the now-closed Michelin three-star temple of gastronomy had been estimated to take in about $750,000, but determined foodies drove the total to $913,605, the auction house said.

The event followed a similar sale in Hong Kong earlier this month which took in $1.8 million, bringing the overall total for the two auctions to $2,718,909, more than twice the low estimate, with proceeds earmarked for the elBullifoundation and the transformation of elBulli into a space that will double as a food museum and culinary creativity center set to open in 2014.

The world-famous restaurant was once the home of avant-garde haute cuisine molecular gastronomy.

While the top lot was four bottles of Romanée Conti 2004 signed by Adrià and Juli Soler, which fetched $52,062, nearly double the high estimate, all eyes were on the featured offering of an exclusive dinner for four with Adrià at his brother Albert's Tickets restaurant in Barcelona.

Eight bidders vied for the experience, which was won by an Asian buyer bidding online who paid $36,750, or about $9,200 per person. Sotheby's said 42 percent of the buyers had never before participated in one of its wine auctions.

The remaining top prices were all fetched by rare wines, such as six bottles of Pingus 1995, a highly coveted Spanish wine, which soared to $10,412, or more than three times the pre-sale estimate despite some bottles have scuffed labels.

A Laguiole knife collection sold for $6,125, while a signed Ferran Adrià chef jacket went for $3,063.

At its peak, elBulli, which was opened only part of the year and accommodated about 7,000 diners in the northern Catalonian town of Roses, received 2 million reservations requests a year.

Saying it had "completed its journey as a restaurant," elBulli closed in 2011 after a 27-year run that included being rated the world's top restaurant for four consecutive years in the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants.

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