Note: This project has since changed, many of the ideas and descriptions in the piece remain the same but you can get a more up to date description of the Roca Brother's El Somni project here.
Imagine this.......You arrive at the second best restaurant in the world, after marveling at their lush garden, the polished chrome sign and amazing glass facade, you're led inside.
You walk through a long white corridor as teams of servers brush past with pieces of art on plates, you see a wine cellar containing over 30,000 bottles, and just as you notice the crisply laid table, crystal glasses and shiny silverware, just as you're about to take your seat in a beautiful chair, you're rushed outside to a herb garden, taken deep underground and seated with 11 other bemused diners.
This might sound a little extreme, especially when you find out that the underground restaurant in question will be situated below the herb garden of the Spanish giant El Celler De Can Roca, but this is exactly the plan currently being worked on by Joan, Jordi and Josep - AKA The Roca Brothers.
You would eat a truffle, hear and see the forest, feel the humidity of the forest, hear the sounds of where the truffle was from...
A few months ago the brothers announced plans to build a Culinary Opera, an igloo shaped venue in which people would sit in a circle eating food alongside music - at the time little information was available, but now we know that it will be a multi-sensory dining experience like no other. An attempt to conjure, harness and present a 'sixth sense' to diners. A whole new way to eat out, or depending on how you look at it, a whole new way to visit the opera.
As Joan, the oldest brother, explained: "We want to play with different disciplines; video, art, music and food. It's so ambitious because it plays with so many different arts. That's why we will develop the concept underground." Joan revealed that being hidden from view is not the only reason to build this concept underground, there is a much stronger thought process behind it: "making our diners go underground is also an exercise in humility."
Once seating in the underground space, diners will be served food, music, visuals and smells that all work to compliment and enhance the dining experience. How exactly? Only the Rocas know, but whatever the finished execution, the plans are huge and listening to Joan explain the concept is a magical moment.
This is a magical moment we are living right now and this is our dream, we just want to extend this dream for as long as possible.
"We're still looking at the relationship between the sequence of dishes and the music but a basic example is that you would eat a truffle, hear and see the forest, feel the humidity of the forest, hear the sounds of where the truffle was from, then when you taste it you get a stronger idea of what it's all about." The concept the brothers have hatched is aspirational and, although yet to be defined, they seem confident in executing such a unique idea.
Provocation has been a theme among the world's best restaurants for a long time now with many chefs working on techniques to try and conjure emotional responses from diners. Heston Blumenthal with his 'child in a sweet shop' and Ferran Adria constantly surprising guests are the most noted, but this response has usually been garnered from the food on the plate. The Roca's experiment is different in the way that food plays just a small part in making up the entire opera.
"It doesn't pretend to be the restaurant of the future - it's an exercise of experimental creativity. It's a renaissance idea, we want to be a step ahead of others. Music, food, wine, arts, sounds, taste, emotion will all combine in this project.
"We have always believed that the opera is where all the arts come together and compliment each other, and we always thought that the maximum effect for an opera would be if it was edible. There will be a lot of attention to detail, projectors over the tables, projectors on the dishes, projectors over the walls, music, and by combining all this we will create an opera sequence."
A truly momentous task and one that can only be attempted by a team as diverse and creative as the Rocas - a team who have for the past 25 years gone from running a small family kitchen in Costa Brava to owning a three Michelin starred restaurant with one of the most diverse and compelling wine cellars in existence.
But, as much as projects like this aim to give diners a new experience, Joan explained that they also help the brothers in the kitchen: "For us the most important thing is to open up a dialogue with all the different artistic disciplines, this will help to improve our creativity and improve our work in the kitchen. It's an experiment, like a game but we expect that this will bring us lots of new ideas and creativity in the dishes we devise."
With designs coming from the visual artist, Franc Aleu, famous for his interactive opera creations, the concept is sure to cause a ripple throughout the world of food. Projections on plates, the table and the walls - foods presented as tastes, smells and textures - music that compliments flavor, region and locality. It's dining on a whole new level, experience off-the-plate and dining that in years to come may well change the way we look at and define a great restaurant experience.